Atlanta job gains slow, but layoffs decline

The emergency payments of $600 a week to jobless worker were credited with keeping households and consumer spending afloat. But the payments ended in July. Georgia officials say they plan to start paying half that amount as part of a program using money from the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Bridget Bennett/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
The emergency payments of $600 a week to jobless worker were credited with keeping households and consumer spending afloat. But the payments ended in July. Georgia officials say they plan to start paying half that amount as part of a program using money from the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Bridget Bennett/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

It would have been considered a robust month in normal times —15,300 jobs added to the metro Atlanta economy in July.

But, with the region and the country struggling to recover from weeks spent in a pandemic-induced lockdown, some worry that the number is a sign that the pace of the economic rebound has slowed.

Job growth in May and June averaged 70,000.

While the expansion was good enough to trim the unemployment rate to 8.5% in July from 8.6% in June, there were 200,800 fewer jobs last month than at the end of last year.

Metro Atlanta saw massive job losses in April. Yet the flood of layoffs — while still historically high — has been ebbing.

The state Department of Labor said Thursday that it processed 56,768 new jobless claims in Georgia for the week ending August 22, down slightly from the prior week and far below the stratospheric peaks of April.

More than 3.5 million jobless claims have been filed since mid-March, 1.5 million of them judged to be valid. More than 500,000 Georgians are currently receiving benefits.

Paying those claims has nearly depleted the state’s trust fund, said Georgia labor commissioner Mark Butler during a virtual press conference Thursday.

The state has applied for a federal loan. It will need $1 billion in coming weeks to keep paying claimants, he said. “It’s a very simple process. It’s not really going to be an issue.”

Butler said the enormous amount of money pumping through the system has lured fraudsters — both foreign and domestic. “We are hoping to start seeing some arrests. This money is taxpayer money, and it’s our job to protect that money.”

Nationally, there were about 1 million new claims filed, down from 1.1 million the previous week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Yet hiring continues in many corners of the economy.

QuikTrip is adding 375 full- and part-jobs in scores of stations around metro Atlanta, according a company spokeswoman.

And Friday at 2 p.m., Amazon will hold an online hiring fair, promising jobs that pay up to $17.50 an hour.

Many tech companies never saw their business drop, so there’s been no need for layoffs.

“I won’t say COVID has helped us, but it hasn’t hurt our business,” said Roger Barnette, the chief executive of MessageGears. “We are continuing to hire and invest in the business.”

Much of tech in metro Atlanta has prospered, despite the pandemic, said Roger Barnette, chief executive of MessageGears.
Much of tech in metro Atlanta has prospered, despite the pandemic, said Roger Barnette, chief executive of MessageGears.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The 10-year-old, Atlanta-based company sells software — mainly to large firms — for managing and protecting customer data. “There are sectors of the economy that are winning,” Barnette said.

Currently at about 50 employees, MessageGears plans to add about a dozen more.

Sean McCormick, chief executive of Atlanta-based SingleOps, said the 40-employee company has added about 18 people so far this year.

SingleOps makes business software aimed at improving the efficiency of landscaping, lawn and tree services. Those companies have continued operating through the pandemic, but they have slim profit margins in the best of times, he said.

About 10 more positions — engineers, sales and marketing staff, as well as people to run operations — are due to be filled this year, McCormick said.

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Unemployment rate, metro Atlanta

January: 3.2%

February: 3.3%

March: 4.4%

April: 12.7%

May: 9.9%

June: 8.6%

July: 8.5%

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor

Jobs added or lost, metro Atlanta

January: -41,400

February: 3,500

March: -10,700

April: -307,900

May: 52,800

June: 87,600

July: 15,300

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor

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