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Atlanta unemployment UP again: Why and what's next?

7:01 AM, Jul 27, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- By now you may have seen that unemployment in metro Atlanta is up, again.

It's going in the wrong direction.

Why? And what's next?

"In June, specifically, what we're seeing is a bunch of college graduates," said Tom Smith, Ph.D., of Emory University's Goizueta Business School. "Boom, they're hitting the labor market, hard."

That's the "why."

In June, 17,526 more people, including college grads, hit metro Atlanta's streets looking for work.

That means that metro Atlanta's unemployment rate climbed back up.

It reached 9.3 percent in June, up from 8.6 percent in May. In June of 2011, Metro Atlanta's unemployment rate was 10.2 percent.

By comparison, the lowest unemployment rates in the state are in Athens and in Gainesville, at 7.5 percent each.

The worst -- in NW Georgia, in Dalton -- 12.3 percent.

"A lot of people are out of work, they've got to be retrained," said the Dean of Kennesaw State University's College of Continuing and Professional Education, Barbara Calhoun.

Thursday night, about 1,000 job seekers went back to school, flooding the college to sign up for rapid training -- hoping to begin new careers where the demand for workers is biggest: paralegal, and health care.

The new term starts next week.

"They can't find skilled people," Dean Calhoun said of employers who are hiring. "So our job is to make sure that we train people in the skills that these companies need... And you can come in and be trained and you could be in the job market, in most cases, if you're good at what you do, within a year."

Dean Calhoun said the college is not currently able to track all graduates, but, "we can anecdotally say, but not scientifically say, that we're looking at a 40 percent rate of people who do get jobs when they take our classes."

"Firms are going to have to replace workers, because you just can't have one person doing the job of three people forever," Dr. Smith said. "Keep trying. I mean, the truth is that the economy is getting better. We've seen the unemployment rate fall a full percentage point in the last year."

So, that's what's next, according to Dr. Smith -- firms that downsized during the recession can't continue much longer with skeleton staffs.

"It's not that employers can't hire. They are very profitable. And we're seeing they have a lot of excess cash. But they're waiting" for some proof that the economy won't take another nose dive, he said, or that regulations won't make it more expensive to employ additional workers than it is to operate with insufficient staff sizes.

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