Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coastal Job Health Teetering; Georgia among Nation's Worst States, and Tourism Weakening

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coastal Job Health Teetering; Georgia among Nation's Worst States, and Tourism Weakening

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROLE HAWKINS

Employment in Georgia continued its downward slide last month and jobless claims in the southeastern part of the state are following the trend.

Georgia's unemployment rate hit a record high of 8.6 percent in January, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday. It's the 15th consecutive month Georgia has topped national unemployment rates.

Unemployment in Southeast Georgia has grown by about 1 percentage point since December, a rate that matches the growth of the state's jobless rate.

Construction, manufacturing, retail and administrative services account for most of the 149,500 jobs lost statewide in the past year, according to Department of Labor records.

In Coastal Georgia, where unemployment is 7.8 percent, communities are faring better than the rest of the state. But tourism, the area's economic engine, is showing weakness.

Local hotel and motel bed tax collections are down by 9 percent, said Bill Tipton, executive director of the Brunswick-Glynn County Convention and Visitor Bureau. The number is considered a leading indicator of the industry's health.

"The number of individual travelers is about as solid as it was before," Tipton said. "But we are getting hammered by large corporations canceling meetings which have been scheduled on the books."

Tipton blames the cancellations on a growing national perception that companies that hold meetings at four- and five-star resorts are wasting money.

"They're still having the meetings somewhere and they're spending just as much money. They're just holding them in a city instead," he said.

While Coastal Georgia tracks ahead of the state in employment, communities inland are worse off, with unemployment hitting 10 percent in January.

Regina Morgan, executive director of the Okefenokee Area Development Authority in Ware County, said railroad giant CSX Transportation has furloughed 125 employees so far this year.

Goody's Family Clothing store closed and so have a few local retail businesses. …

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