A year ago, the jobless rate for the region was 5.2 percent. But during the year, the labor force surged by about 100,000 people looking for work, and while hiring was strong, that wave of job-seekers kept the unemployment rate from dropping, according to the state Labor Department and Mark Butler, state labor commissioner.
Last week, the government announced that the state rate had declined to 5.3 percent.
However, the metro rate is not adjusted to account for seasonal patterns. So unlike the report on the state, the metro report does not mask what is generally a fall in jobs and a rise in unemployment.
During the month, the metro economy added 12,300 jobs. That is slightly better than average over the past five Februarys.
Here’s some things to do to sound smart:
Take the longer view. Economists often stress that one month’s data can be unreliable, so the more important question is about the longer arc of the economy. And that longer trend has been positive: during the past year, the metro Atlanta economy has added 95,400 jobs.
That is the lion’s share of the job growth in the state. It is also the fastest growth of any metro, except for Hinesville, south of Savannah, which has a total of only 20,300 jobs.
Since hitting bottom in early 2010, the metro Atlanta economy has added about 450,000 jobs and slashed the official jobless rate in half. Yet it has still not completely undone the damage done by the recession. Roughly 158,000 people in metro Atlanta are counted as unemployed -- that is, they are out of work and also looking for a job.
That doesn’t count anyone who is no longer looking.
But don’t forget that many of the jobs created are in fields like tourism that typically do not pay very well.
Compare this February to others .
During the previous five years, metro Atlanta has averaged growth of 11,900 jobs in February. So this was slightly better than that.
Look for a winner.
Among the sectors adding jobs were:
-- the corporate sector, known as professional and business services, up 5,500 jobs.
-- education and health, up 4,600.
-- leisure and hospitality, up 1,800.
-- financial services, up 1,100.
-- information, up 1,000.
-- construction, up 400.
-- manufacturing, up 300.
List the losers.
Among the larger pieces of the economy, hiring was down only in the logistics sector known as trade transportation and utilities. The sector lost 3,300 jobs.
That could be a continuation of the post-holiday weakness that the sector shows every January when there are fewer packages and people moving through Atlanta, being stored in the region’s warehouses and being shipped from its distribution centers.
Next month’s report should show the sector turning around. But it bears watching, since trade is so crucial to Atlanta.
Remember that the jobless rate is about people. There are still 147,000 people out of work and looking for a job.
That number doesn’t include those who have retired early or just given up looking. But nearly one-third of the unemployed – more than 40,000 people – have been searching for six months or more.
Metro Atlanta, Unemployment rate, February
2007 4.2 percent
2008 5.1 percent
2009 9.3 percent
2010 10.6 percent
2011 10.0 percent
2012 9.3 percent
2013 8.3 percent
2014 7.1 percent
2015 6.0 percent
2016 5.2 percent
2017 4.9 percent
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor