By the numbers
Jobless rates for January
* Nation — 6.6 percent
* Georgia — 7.4 percent
* Metro Atlanta region — 7.2 percent
* Georgia Mountains region — 6.3 percent
* Forsyth County — 5.5 percent
* Cherokee County — 6.0 percent
* Fulton County — 7.9 percent
* Gwinnett County — 6.3 percent
* Hall County — 5.9 percent
Source: Georgia Department of Labor
CUMMING — Forsyth County continues to boast one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state.
According to statistics from Georgia Department of Labor, the county had a rate of 5.5 percent in January, the most recent month for which figures were available.
Just three other counties in the state posted lower rates: Madison in east Georgia at 5.4 percent; Catoosa in northwest Georgia at 5.2; and Miller in south Georgia at 5.1. Two counties — Banks in northeast Georgia and Columbia, near Augusta — tied with Forsyth.
Overall, Georgia’s unemployment rate stood at 7.4 percent, while the national rate was 6.6 percent.
Of Georgia’s counties, 73, or about 46 percent, reported rates lower than 8 percent, according to state figures. Some 28 counties, or 18 percent, had rates between 8 and 8.9, while 26 counties, or 16 percent, had rates of 9 percent or higher.
In comparison to its immediate neighbors, Forsyth fared the best. Fulton posted the highest rate in the area at 7.9 percent, followed by Gwinnett at 6.3 percent. Cherokee County came in at 6 percent, while Hall was the closest to Forsyth’s rate at 5.9 percent.
The Georgia Mountains Region, which includes Forsyth and Hall and other northeast Georgia counties, had an overall rate of 6.3 percent, figures show.
Randall Toussaint, vice president of economic development for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said he believes Forsyth continues to maintain one of Georgia’s lowest jobless rates for a several reasons. Among them: Ongoing economic development efforts and strong community partners.
“Last year, for example, we were able to participate in projects that generated over 600 new jobs in our community,” Toussaint said. “And this year, just since January, we’re already participated in four projects that are forecasted to generate approximately 87 jobs and we’re only in March.”
According to Toussaint, Forsyth’s approach to economic development is slightly different than many counties, which he believes has led to its success.
“I think the reason why we’ve been extremely successful, first and foremost, is that we’ve developed a targeted plan for how we go about economic development activities,” he said. “It’s based upon not just recruiting any company, but specifically seeking to attract companies within the target industries that are most prevalent within our community.”
Those areas include health care, advanced manufacturing that involves primarily assembly and distribution, technology, international businesses and corporate headquarters.
He said community partners, such as the state Department of Labor, local colleges and the school system, also play an important role in holding down the unemployment rate.
Toussaint pointed to a job fair last month at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center as an example of strong partnerships.
“There are approximately 600,000 unfilled positions now [in the United States] even with the abundance of job seekers because there’s a void of technically-trained workers,” Toussaint said. “And our area just happens to be a haven of technically-trained workers, so by hosting a job fair last month, we were able to directly connect companies that have had challenges filling technically-trained jobs locally with local residents who had the skill sets to be able to carry out those jobs.
“The outcome of that is obviously a connection that allows for hiring to take place and then a reduction in the unemployment rate.”
Toussaint went on to note other partners, such as the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, which offer programs to help keep people employed.
“We’re now able to offer tax credits and different resources that allow us to provide work force development programs directly to companies. That way it furthers the training opportunities and the longevity of each position [companies] create and offsets some of the initial costs that [employers] would incur with creating the new jobs,” Toussaint said.
“Once the costs are taken away and the correct applicant finds the ideal job, we’re able to see some really rapid growth within the company in terms of job creation.”
According to information from the labor department, Forsyth also fared well in comparison to metro Atlanta counties. The area’s unemployment rates rose to 7.2 percent in January, up from 6.8 percent in December. That increase was due largely to the loss of nearly 40,000 seasonal jobs.
However, the rate fell from 8.8 percent in January 2013.
The number of jobs available in metro Atlanta increased from January 2013 to January 2014 by 58,600, and the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits for the region fell during that same time from 31,663 to 23,233.