Rabun County’s unemployment rate has not been this low since May 2009, according to statistics compiled by the University of Georgia.
According to the Georgia Department of Labor, the rate of 9.2 percent is a 0.9-percent decrease from October and a 2.5-percent decrease from November 2012.
The size of the labor force, which takes into account all county residents who are at least 16 years of age, also decreased from 6,154 to 6,079 people.
Though the county’s unemployment rate is improving, Rabun still has the highest percentage of unemployed residents in the mountain region, which comprises 13 counties. Hart County had the second highest rate in the region at 8.8 percent.
Georgia’s overall unemployment rate also decreased from 8.1 to 7.7 percent in November.
After a strong November, Becky Waters, with the labor department office in Rabun County, said she had seen in increase in unemployment claims filed in December.
“It’s seasonal,” Waters said. “We had some people come in because of plants closing for two weeks at a time.”
Waters added that many seasonal employees had filled unemployment claims. She did not expect the rate to change much until March or April when those same seasonal employers begin hiring again.
With an increase in unemployment claims, December also saw the end of long-term unemployment benefits. Before Dec. 28, those who had received unemployment benefits could file for an extension that would allow them to continue to receive funds for up to 20 weeks after their initial claim had expired.
Waters said many people in Rabun County would be affected by the loss of benefits. She also said the steady stream of recent hirings should begin to offset the demand.
Future economic growth in the county could be on the rise, with multiple manufacturers looking to potentially move to Rabun.
Ray Coulombe, executive director of the Rabun County Development Authority, said he had been in contact with four companies, all of which would bring manufacturing jobs.
“One project is large, two are smaller and one is middle sized,” Coulombe said. “The larger project would have 120 to 150 employees.”
Coulombe said a few setbacks had cropped up during negotiations with the largest prospective employer. The site consultant representing the company unexpectedly died in November. Since then, state officials have stepped in to help the recruiting effort, he said.