Dec. unemployment claims up 174 percent

ATLANTA - The Georgia Department of Labor says unemployment insurance claims shot up 174 percent last month compared to December 2007.

Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond describes the increase as "stunning and sobering."

Thurmond says 128,625 laid-off workers filed first-time claims in December.

His department also processed 19,160 first-time claims for federal extended unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 111,384 since the program triggered in Georgia in July. Federal extended benefits are available to jobless workers who have exhausted regular state unemployment compensation.

Among metropolitan areas with the highest increase in claims last month, Rome and Dalton were up about 350 percent and Gainesville 216 percent. The areas with the smallest increases were Hinesville, 92 percent, Macon at 116 and Augusta with a 119 percent jump.

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