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Jobless numbers jumping
Gwinnett's rate nearly doubles in 12 months

LAWRENCEVILLE - The state's unemployment rate reached a record high 9.3 percent in February. Gwinnett County isn't far behind.

The data shows Gwinnett's rate of unemployment now stands at 8.5 percent, up from 4.7 percent one year ago. For comparison, Georgia's unemployment rate one year ago stood at 5.4 percent.

During the course of the last year, Gwinnett's unemployment rate has risen steadily each month since April, when the rate dipped briefly to 4.5 percent. By August the number had climbed to 6 percent and by December it was up to 6.9 percent. Through January it stood at 7.8 percent.

According to numbers released by the Georgia Department of Labor, that 8.5 percent unemployment rate means 35,200 Gwinnettians were out of work in February. One year ago, that number was 19,871. Statistics also indicate Gwinnett has a total, eligible work force of 414,938 people, down from 422,120 people one year ago. In the last month alone, 2,701 Gwinnettians lost their job.

In terms of the number of initial unemployment claims made, the department said Georgia's statewide numbers indicate a 111 percent increase in the last year. In February 2008, the number of claims made was 40,693 compared to 86,519 made last month.

Gwinnett has pretty much mimicked those state numbers, with the number of initial unemployment claims up 112 percent in the last year. In February 2008, 2,087 claims were made. In February 2009, that number was 4,436. The number of initial claims filed in Gwinnett did dip in the last month though, dropping from the 4,993 claims filed in January.

A call to the department's Gwinnett bureau on Beaver Ruin Road to inquire about where Gwinnett's unemployment numbers stood historically went unanswered. An attempt to leave a message failed since the inbox was full.

The U.S. unemployment rate, released earlier this month, rose to 8.1 percent in February, the highest in more than 25 years. Economists predict the national jobless rate will hit 10 percent by the end of the year, even if the recession were to end later this year as some hope.

Michigan's jobless rate climbed to 12 percent, the highest in the country. South Carolina registered the second-highest at 11 percent, and Oregon came in third at 10.8 percent.

All told, 49 states and the District of Columbia saw their unemployment rates move higher in February from the previous month. Only Nebraska recorded a slight dip. Its jobless rate dipped to 4.2 percent.

Wyoming once again had the lowest unemployment rate, 3.9 percent.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the recession could end this year, setting the stage for a recovery next year only if shaky financial markets are stabilized.

To brace the economy, the Fed has slashed a key bank lending rate to an all-time low and has embarked on a series of radical programs to inject billions of dollars into the financial system.

The Obama administration is counting on a $787 billion package of increased government spending and tax cuts, a financial-bailout program and an effort to stem home foreclosures to help turn the economy around.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.