ATLANTA (AP) - State labor officials say Georgia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has declined for the third straight month in December, to 9.7%.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says the new number is a one-tenth of a percentage point decline from a revised 9.8% in November. He said that makes this the largest two-month decrease in unemployment since 1977.

The jobless rate was 10.4% in December a year ago.

Butler said the unemployment rate declined because 11,500 Georgians went back to work in December. Also, he said the state saw some employment gains in areas which had been especially hard-hit by the rugged economy.

Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement that the decrease in unemployment plus several other positive economic signs suggests the state is heading in the right direction.

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