Atlanta adds jobs; mostly e-commerce and seasonal

Much of the job growth in metro Atlanta has been in e-commerce and seasonal work as the economy-crushing drag of COVID-19 continues to show itself in the data.
Much of the job growth in metro Atlanta has been in e-commerce and seasonal work as the economy-crushing drag of COVID-19 continues to show itself in the data.

Metro Atlanta rang up a seventh consecutive month of job growth in November, but the growth in jobseekers was faster, causing the unemployment rate to rise from 4.6% to 5.6%, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The region added 21,500 jobs last month, with the largest share coming from jobs linked to e-commerce and seasonal hiring.

But the labor force — which includes those who have a job or are seeking one — increased by 42,575 during November, outpacing job growth.

Metro Atlanta has 85,000 fewer jobs than a year ago, but it keeps moving in the right direction, said Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner.

“We will continue to fill the jobs that are currently available, in order for us to move our economy back to where it was pre-pandemic,” he said.

One key driver has been the surge in online ordering, which spurred breakneck hiring for warehouse, trucking and distribution workers, as well as those who write the software that keeps goods flowing.

Online shopping has driven up jobs in warehousing and delivery in metro Atlanta. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Online shopping has driven up jobs in warehousing and delivery in metro Atlanta. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Since the pandemic-triggered shutdowns of the spring, the number of warehouse and transportation jobs grew 10%, according to data collected by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. Amazon led the pack in hiring, but other metro Atlanta retailers like Walmart, Kroger and Home Depot also added thousands of workers.

Last month, transportation and warehousing expanded by 8,200 positions — more than half of the increase coming from couriers and messengers.

Retailers added 10,700 jobs while the corporate sector added 5,100 jobs and construction added 1,900 slots.

Among sectors that lost jobs were manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, finance and government.

Unlike a typical recovery, this economy is struggling with an uncontrolled virus. While vaccines are being rolled out, months of social distancing and fear of in-person encounters remain, which fuels some kinds of spending and stymies others.

Another sign of uncertainty was an increase by 2,100 in temp workers, a category that has added 19,500 jobs since August, said Atlanta economist Michael Wald, formerly of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Years ago, that hiring would be seen as a good sign, because economists assumed those temps would eventually get full-time jobs, he said.

“Today, I am not so sure. Businesses might just choose to keep their staff on temporary status to give them labor flexibility,” Wald said.

Economist Tom Smith of Emory’s Goizueta Business School said the pandemic is reshaping the economy in some ways that may be permanent.

“What troubles me the most — I look at retail and the food sectors, and I am just fearful that it’s not going to come back,” he said. “People are changing their habits. Are people going to flock to restaurants the way they did before?”

Last week, accommodation and food services workers accounted for slightly more than one-fourth of the 26,673 new jobless claims in Georgia, state numbers say.

In the past four weeks, the department has handled 102,561 new claims.

About 176,000 people in metro Atlanta are jobless and actively looking for work, according to the Labor Department. That does not include people who have given up the search or who have taken part-time jobs.

Metro Atlanta’s November economy*

Sectors adding jobs

Warehousing and transportation

Retail

Temporary staffing

Software

Sectors shedding jobs

Manufacturing

Government

Leisure and hospitality

Financial services

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

____________________________

Georgia, new jobless claims*

Week ending:

Nov. 7: 23,827

Nov. 14: 19,626

Nov. 21: 20,088

Nov. 28: 19,183

Dec. 5: 33,003

Dec. 12: 23,702

Dec. 19: 26,673

*Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

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