The Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday that Rome had 154 fewer people on a payroll in August than in July, yet the unemployment rate dropped by 2.4%.

How did that happen? The answer is the number of people counted in the local labor force experienced a significant decline — of 1,278 people from month to month.

The GDOL reported that 41,013 Floyd County residents were on a payroll in August and another 2,022 were out of work but looking for a job. Those two numbers make up the workforce: 43,035 people.

That’s a drop from the 44,313 counted in the workforce during July, when the jobless rate was 7.1%.

Rome Floyd Chamber President Jeanne Krueger said she is happy to see the dip in the unemployment rate but at a loss to explain the reduction in the labor force.

Krueger suggested that perhaps some of that involved seasonal jobs and students who returned to school rather than continuing to look for employment.

She also noted that the Baby Boom generation is continuing to retire — which emphasizes the need for Rome and Floyd County to work hard to attract young professionals to the workforce.

“You have to be competitive in the marketplace. You need to have a vibrant downtown, a vibrant community, and you have to offer the right housing,” Krueger said.

“That’s something we’re working toward, to have the desirable housing that young people can afford and move into,” she said. “We have great schools and great colleges.”

The trend of a lower unemployment rate, and also a drop in the labor force, was pretty much the same in adjacent counties.

The Bartow jobless rate dropped from 7.2% in July to 5% in August, but the Cartersville area labor force dropped by almost 1,400 residents. Chattooga’s jobless rate fell from 8.7% in July to 6.2% in August but the county workforce declined by 315.

Gordon County saw 543 residents leave the workforce and the jobless rate fell by 1.7% to 4.2% in August. Walker County’s workforce lost 721 residents and the jobless rate dropped from 5.2% to 4%, while Polk County lost 444 people from the workforce and saw the unemployment rate fall from 6.6% in July to 4.5% in August.

One positive sign for the local economy is that Rome added 400 jobs to local payrolls in August, bringing that number to 41,900. The number reflects jobs based in Rome and Floyd County.

Another positive sign is that the number of first time claims for unemployment assistance went down by 51 from July to August. A total of 2,099 Floyd County residents filed a first time claim for benefits in August, down from the 4,292 who filed an initial claim in July.

Employ Georgia, the GDOL’s online job listing service at employgeorgia.com, showed about 658 active job postings in metro Rome for August.

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