The department reported that 393,168 Georgia residents were jobless last month. About 40 percent of them are getting unemployment insurance.
Manufacturing and construction workers have had it the worst, said Georgia labor commissioner Michael L. Thurmond. There have been thousands of layoffs at places such as the Shaw Industries and Mohawk Industries carpet plants in north Georgia, and the announced closing of the Cooper Tire & Rubber plant in Albany, he said.
He said the souring economy has had a "ripple effect" that has touched every sector of the state's work force.
"We are in the midst of a full blown crisis at this point," Thurmond said. "No one is immune from this ongoing recession."
Stephanie Lloyd, 39, a corporate recruiter, said she's been out of work for about a month after her contract ran out with a recruiting firm in Atlanta. She said she's using social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to make contacts with firms looking for recruiters, but many companies have frozen hiring because of the souring economy.
"It is a tough time. I'm glued to CNN pretty much 24-7," the Decatur resident said.
Georgia has hovered above the national unemployment rate since February 2008. In December, the U.S. rate was 7.2 percent.
Most Southern states haven't released their December unemployment figures yet. In November, Georgia ranked among the highest in the region for unemployment. South Carolina was the highest with 8.4 percent, a rank of third in the nation.
In Georgia, the March 1983 jobless rate also was 8.1 percent.
Last month, the rate was 3.6 percentage points higher than the 4.5 percent of people who were without work at the same time last year. It was also a 0.7 percentage point increase over November's 7.4 percent unemployment rate.
The labor department says there are 121,800 fewer payroll jobs than last year, a decrease of about 2.9 percent.