Georgia adds jobs, but not enough to keep unemployment from rising

Jobless rate climbs back above 5%
Jobs will be scarce in parts of the economy until consumers are comfortable in face-to-face interactions.

Credit: Ketut Subiyanto (Con

Credit: Ketut Subiyanto (Con

Jobs will be scarce in parts of the economy until consumers are comfortable in face-to-face interactions.

Georgia’s unemployment rate rose to 5.7% last month from 4.5% in October as hiring failed to keep pace with more job seekers, the state’s Department of Labor reported Thursday.

During November roughly 20,900 jobs were added — a robust performance in normal times.

But the labor force — those with jobs or actively seeking jobs — expanded by more than 80,000. That number likely grew because more people returned to the job search after pandemic-triggered shutdowns cost more than a half-million jobs earlier this year.

Although the Georgia economy has grown for seven consecutive months, it has not yet made up for the devastating losses of the spring. The state still has 136,800 fewer jobs than in February.

“At this pace it is going to be a while to get back to where we were,” said economist Tom Smith of Emory’s Goizueta Business School.

Still, November hiring was a sign of resilience in the economy, said Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner. “While many may focus on the unemployment rate increasing, what is more important is the increases in jobs and employment.”

Last week Georgia processed 23,702 new jobless claims, down from the prior week, but still a sign of recession-level cutting.

Hiring is especially strong around e-commerce. The Labor Department said much of last month’s growth was in transportation and warehousing, where huge retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Kroger have been bulking up to handle a surge in online ordering.

With cases of coronavirus once again rising, job cuts were concentrated in businesses that rely on face-to-face interactions, hurting restaurants, bars and conferences.

Hospitality and food services have been hemorrhaging jobs since the pandemic struck, and they led the pack in layoffs once again last week.

“That’s what troubles me the most,” Smith said. “Those are sectors that people fall back on. ‘Oh, I can always wait tables or bartend.’ But what if those jobs don’t exist anymore?”

Since March 21, state officials have processed more than 4.2 million claims for unemployment benefits. The number of claims is larger than the number of people laid off because of duplications, mistakes and sometimes fraud. Still, nearly half of the claims have been judged to be valid.

The state is also administering the federal programs that provide benefits to gig and contract workers who have lost jobs. Those programs are set to expire by Dec. 26th. About 300,000 Georgians will lose their benefits when the federal pandemic programs end, if they aren’t renewed, according to the Department of Labor.

Congressional leaders have been in talks about new federal relief, but any package is expected to be smaller than the CARES Act in March.

Georgia’s pandemic economy, jobs added or lost

March: -33,500

April: -498,100

May: 99,600

June: 151,300

July: 39,900

August: 29,900

September: 27,300

October: 25,000

November: 20,900

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

New jobless claims in Georgia

Week ending:

Oct. 10: 54,166

Oct. 17: 44,892

Oct. 24: 43,695

Oct. 31: 37,253

Nov. 7: 23,827

Nov. 14: 19,626

Nov. 21: 20,088

Nov. 28: 19,183

Dec. 5: 33,003

Dec. 12: 23,702

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration