First on 12: Augusta jobless surpass national average

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock, January 9, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The numbers are in. More than 500,000 people lost their jobs in December alone. The nation's unemployment rate is now at 7.2 percent.

Augusta's unemployment rate surpasses the national average. The Department of Labor talked exclusively to 12.

"I'm hurting bad from it," said Betty Johnson. "I'm hurting bad." Betty was laid off in November.

"When that happened my world crushed all around me," said Betty.

The unemployment office now like her 9 to 5.

"As a single mom," said Betty. "I need help. I need a job."

Augusta surpasses the national unemployment average of 7.2%. The latest local numbers top out at 7.3 percent. That's 18,000 local people looking for work.

"Looking for a job is now your job," said Michael Armstrong who is assistant manager at the Augusta Career Center. "You just got to do it like you would going to work everyday."

On any given day a room full of people take advantage of workshops, resume writing, and extended hours. The department opens 30 minutes earlier at 7:30 AM.

"But they can't do but so much if there is not a facility or plant or somebody that will open up jobs," said Betty.

She knows the playing field is crowded, and sometimes feels she's fighting a losing battle.

"It makes me feel bad," said Betty. "I see other people shopping and taking their little girls out. I have a little girl. That's something a mother and daughter should be able to do."

But these are no ordinary times. The people frequenting the Department of Labor are no longer the usual suspects.

"Unskilled. Semi-skilled and highly skilled," said Armstrong. "It's a little bit of everything."

"I'm going to be okay. I am going to make it," said Betty. "2009...my New Year's resolution is the high expectation that I'm going to make it, and the job I really want...I am going to get it."

In November 2007, about 13,000 Augustans were out of work. One year later, 18,000 people are looking for jobs. There is some good news to report. The Georgia Department of Labor was recognized as the national leader in helping people return to work. They are getting people back up on their feet in about 3 to 4 months.


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