Georgia unemployment rate drops to 7 percent

Georgia’s jobless rate dropped in March to its lowest level since fall 2008, state labor officials said Thursday.

According to the Georgia Department of Labor, the March unemployment rate was 7 percent, down from 7.1 percent in February. It’s the lowest since the September 2008 rate of 6.8 percent.

The labor department announced the figures early Thursday.

“This is the ninth month in a row that Georgia’s unemployment rate has dropped,” state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement. “It’s down because we continue to see employers creating more jobs and laying off fewer workers. We added 27,400 jobs, which is the most February-to-March job growth we’ve seen in 10 years.”

Officials said the biggest sector of job growth from February to March was leisure and hospitality, which added 8,400 jobs. Another 6,600 were added in professional and business services and 6,100 were added in trade, transportation and warehousing.

The construction sector added 700 jobs from February to March, labor officials said.

“Construction continues to be our fastest growing sector, with an over-the-year growth rate of 5.2 percent,” Butler said. “In addition to good job growth, we had the fewest new claims for unemployment insurance that we’ve had in seven years. This means more people are keeping their jobs, which is another sign of a strengthening economy.”

Officials said unemployment claims were down more than 23 percent from February to March, to 30,814, the fewest since February 2007.