I’ve been writing a lot lately about the late-year surge in employment in the metro Savannah area, as documented by the Georgia Department of Labor’s estimates.

In my Christmas day City Talk column, which you can find linked in the right sidebar with other recent columns, I wrote about the strong year-over-year gain in payroll jobs. That gain was almost entirely limited to the private sector because of declines in federal employment locally.

I’ll have a little more to say about the local job market in my Savannah Morning News column this coming Sunday.

And we’ve also been seeing the unemployment rate tumble. Sometimes that rate falls because fewer people are looking for work, but that’s not what’s happening right now.

The payroll jobs estimate comes from a survey of establishments, but the unemployment rate and other labor force data come from an ongoing survey of households. The latter survey is pretty noisy month to month, and it uses a broad definition of “job” — volunteers, unpaid interns, and so forth might count themselves as working. Self-employed people won’t show up in the payroll survey, but they are obviously part of the workforce.

The Savannah metro area population probably increased by about 1.5 percent over the past year, but the number of residents who say they are in the labor force — either working or actively looking for work — increased from 173,857 in November 2011 to 179,557 in November 2012. That’s an increase of 3.3 percent. And that represents a huge uptick in the local labor force participation rate.

Over that same year, the number of people reporting themselves as being unemployed fell from 14,663 to 13,780

Now, those are still ugly numbers, and our current unemployment rate is very high by historical standards.

But things are moving in the right direction — and relatively fast.

Click here for all the latest household survey data from Savannah, other Georgia metros, and the state as a whole.

Here are the Ga. Dept. of Labor’s latest graphs from the establishment and household surveys for the Savannah metro area:

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