Local officials silent about long term improvement
Last week, the Georgia Department of Labor released the latest unemployment statistics for the Albany area, which was at 10.4 percent. That was a drop of .4 percent over September, which the Department of Labor attributed to fewer layoffs than expected. The unemployment rate last October was also 10.8 percent.
However, it’s not just Albany that’s suffering. The Department of Labor’s breakdown by county showed Dougherty was at 11.7 percent, Lee at 7.6 percent, Worth at 9.5 percent, Terrell at 11.9 percent and Baker at 9.8 percent.
By contrast, the Athens Metropolitan Statistical Area was at a mere 7.5 percent. The national unemployment rate was 9 percent. That’s 1.7 percent below Albany’s rate for that same period.
The Albany Journal reached out to members of both the City and County Commissions on Friday when the numbers were released, asking what was being done to increase the number of jobs in Albany. Emails were forwarded from the city clerk, Sonja Tolbert, to all commissioners by Sunday afternoon. There was no response by press time on Tuesday.
While many may point to the new Olive Garden that is slated to be brought to town, it’s important to note that not all jobs are created equal. Restaurant jobs, for example, are often minimum wage jobs or heavily tip oriented jobs like wait staff. Meanwhile, the Albany area is still reeling from the loss of jobs from Cooper Tire and Merck Chemical, jobs that paid well above the median income level for the Albany area.
The unemployment numbers are expected to continue to drop as many retail stores begin to stock up on personnel for the all-important Christmas shopping season. Again, however, these jobs do little to make up for the economic impact from large manufacturing concerns leaving town. In addition, these jobs are temporary in nature, which will cause an increase in unemployment after the first of the year.
Many in the community argue that without new industry coming to town, the unemployment rate will likely never make it below 10 percent in the foreseeable future.