A year ago, the jobless rate for the region was 5.2 percent. But during the year, more than 107,000 people entered the labor force looking for work – and while most apparently found jobs, the surge of new workers meant the jobless rate inched up, according to the Labor Department and Mark Butler, state labor commissioner.
Last week, the government announced that the state rate had stayed steady at 5.5 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 shed 37,000 jobs. That is a smaller loss than average over the past few Januarys.
Here’s what you should do and say 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: the metro Atlanta economy has added 96,800 jobs – the lion’s share of the job growth in the state.
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.
Think of how January was true to form. Atlanta is always a tough month for hiring. The holidays are over, which means less work for retail and hospitality workers. It also means fewer people traveling and fewer packages being shipped -- and that means less work for warehouse and logistics employees.
During the past ten years, the number of jobs in metro Atlanta has fallen every January.
The drop has averaged 45,300 jobs.
Look for a winner. Financial services, which added about 1,700 jobs, was about the only sector with growth during the month.
List the losers. Hiring was down almost across the board. Including these sectors:
-- the corporate sector, known as professional and business services, which fell by 8,400 jobs
-- manufacturing, dipping 400
-- the logistics sector known as trade transportation and utilities, down 15,300
-- construction, a loss of 1,400
-- education and health, a loss of 2,300
-- leisure and hospitality, falling 3,700
-- government, dropping 4,800
-- information, decreasing 900.
Remember that the jobless rate is about people. There are still more than 158,000 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 45,000 people – have been searching for six months or more.
Metro Atlanta, Unemployment rate, January
2006 -- 5.0 percent
2007 -- 4.5 percent
2008 -- 5.2 percent
2009 -- 8.8 percent
2010 -- 10.6 percent
2011 -- 10.5 percent
2012 -- 9.4 percent
2013 -- 8.7 percent
2014 -- 7.0 percent
2015 -- 6.2 percent
2016 -- 5.2 percent
2017 -- 5.3 percent
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor