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County's jobless rate rises
Filings up more than 130 percent over '07
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County's affluence has not shielded it from the national recession, as evidenced by October's unemployment figures from the state labor department.

The county's jobless rate was 5.5 percent in October. Figures show the number of county residents filing jobless claims has increased more than 130 percent over last year.

Filings increased about 44 percent from September, when 377 residents filed for unemployment, to October when there were 544.

That was less than the nation's 6.5 percent rate and the state's 7 percent rate for October, but topped the county's 3.4 percent unemployment rate from October 2007, when there were 236 jobless claims.

With businesses continuing to close and construction on the decline, future numbers may not be any better in Forsyth County.

As many as 20 employees could be out of a job as a result of Atkins Park Tavern closing at Vickery Village.

The mixed-use development in south Forsyth, built and previously owned by Hedgewood Properties, fell under foreclosure earlier this year. Most of the retail section is now owned by Wachovia.

"Between the owners of the restaurant and the new leasing company, they couldn't come to an agreement on a lease," said Kempten Roberts, a spokeswoman for Atkins Park.

Other workers are facing their final days at Circuit City in The Avenue Forsyth. The store, which opened in the spring, is one of 155 nationwide and 19 in Georgia that are closing, likely by the end of the month

Even Forsyth County government is cutting back. Chief Financial Officer Bill Thomas said the county is looking to save about $1.1 million by eliminating 23 jobs.

Cutbacks across all sectors are leading to desperation.

Kris Carroll, communications and development vice president with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said she received more than 200 applications in less than a week for a part-time events coordinator position.

Carroll said over a four- to five-week period she would typically receive an average of 60 applications for an opening.

It's not only the number of applicants applying to the $15- to $17-per-hour position, but the quality, she said.

"People with Ph.D.s are applying for this," she said. "I have a volume and a quantity of applicants that I've never had in any position I've posted. So I'm going to be able to hire the cream of the crop for the organization, which for a hiring person is a great position to be in.

"But you have to wonder how much of that is driven by the marketplace."

Mysti Banner, staffing manager at H&H Staffing, has noticed the same increase in applications. Between phone calls, walk-ins and resumes, about 150 people each week contact the staffing organization for help.

"Unfortunately, only 5 percent of those will I be able to help," she said. "Because there are so many people out there looking for a job right now, my clients can be very, very picky in what they want as far as experience, job stability and skill set."

Most of the staffing service's clients are looking to fill high-end positions, which means job seekers looking for lower-paying day labor won't find much help.

"There have been more people coming to us for help," Banner said. "But unfortunately, the type of people that are coming to us, I don't have work for. My clients call us for the cream of the crop, and they know that's what we provide."

Brian Dill, vice president of economic development at the local chamber, said the organization, development authority and other groups are working together to offer services to help businesses stay open.

They also are continuing their efforts to attract to Forsyth companies that are doing well during a recession.

"We didn't suddenly become unattractive," Dill said. "We're just going to go do what the rest of Georgia is doing and that is cold calling, knocking on doors and getting in prospects' faces.

"We've been spoiled in the fact that they've come to us in the past three years."

While the project may not open until 2015, Dill sees a silver lining with the Taubman development, a live-work-play community planned for extreme south Forsyth.

The 164-acre project calls for two anchor stores, 675,000 square feet of leasable commercial space, as well as office space, hotels and residential units.

The project represents a $1 billion capital investment. But more importantly, Dill said, it could bring about 8,000 jobs to Forsyth.

"In an economy where people are losing jobs, we actually have the ability to add more than we're losing. And that says something," Dill said.

"The person that was at Atkins Park yesterday can be at a Capital Grille-type steakhouse tomorrow. There's hope and there's light at the end of this tunnel."