The unemployment rate for June in Dalton, GA, is at 12.3 percent. It's among the highest in the state and expected to be higher for July. Dalton is the self-titled "carpet capital of the world."
Despite the high unemployment rate, Mayor David Pennington said things aren't as bad as they may seem.
"The carpet industry is very much alive and well. Are they selling as much carpet as we would like them to? No, but we're surviving this far better than most other communities in America," said Pennington.
Lexmark is one of several carpet mills in Dalton.
"The owner of the company is from Dalton. His family was in the carpet business. Dalton is the carpet capital of the world. It's a natural place to be," said Vice President of Sales Sam Burger.
Burger said Lexmark has 220 employees. Like many industries, Lexmark took a hit during the housing slump in 2007.
"This year we have seen a rebound in business. We're certainly not where we were before the recession hit, but we have seen double-digit growth this year compared to last," said Burger.
Burger said Lexmark is expanding and has hired additional employees in recent months.
The unemployment numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics show jobs in Dalton are not as lucrative as they were in the past.
"Keep in mind Dalton and Whitfield County has always been a jobs engine for all of northwest Georgia and southeast Tennessee," said Pennington. "We don't like anybody losing their job, but a lot of that 12.3 percent doesn't even live in Dalton and Whitfield County."
Pennington painted a different picture of Dalton's economy.
"What people need to understand about Dalton and Whitfield County is we have the third highest employment to population ratio in the state of Georgia. There are only five counties out of 159 whose employment to population ratio is above 50 percent," said Pennington.
Ronald Stewart lives in Dalton. He's an electrician by trade and was recently laid off. We found him looking for a job at the Department of Labor.
"It does look bad when you go around the neighborhood and see every other house is empty. You understand and you know the unemployment rate is up. It kind of puts a little fear in you but when you look to a higher power for your resources it don't really matter. I have that faith," said Stewart.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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