Layoffs drop, but Georgia’s recovery unbalanced

Face-to-face jobs like those in restaurants, bars and coffee shops have been decimated by the pandemic. And until it's over, they are unlikely to fully rebound.
Face-to-face jobs like those in restaurants, bars and coffee shops have been decimated by the pandemic. And until it's over, they are unlikely to fully rebound.

Credit: Pexels, Ketut Subiyanto

Credit: Pexels, Ketut Subiyanto

From their vantage point, metro Atlanta staffing companies are often the first to notice hiring trends. And some of them are seeing signs of growth throughout the area.

“We are busier than a year ago,” said Allison O’Kelly, chief executive of Corps Team.

Though the coronavirus pandemic still casts a long shadow over the economy, Corps Team and other local staffing firms, which specialize in matching job candidates and jobs, say many industries are rebounding.

“The professional service companies — accounting, law firms and so on — are back to hiring a lot of folks," O’Kelly said. "They slowed down during the pandemic, but they are really building back up.”

In addition, layoffs appear to be leveling off.

Last week, new jobless claims in Georgia dropped for the fourth consecutive week, the Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday.

The government processed 23,827 new claims for unemployment benefits, down from 37,253 the previous week. That dropped claims to their lowest weekly level since early March.

Currently, there are 162,000 jobs listed online at EmployGeorgia, according to the Department of Labor.

“Companies are playing catch-up,” said Kim Wallace, executive vice president with Hire Dynamics, a Duluth-based staffing company. “In the last four weeks, we’re really seeing more people getting back to work.”

There has been strong hiring in e-commerce, logistics, warehousing and delivery services, as well as in technology.

Atlanta-based Antonline, which sells gaming and computer tech equipment, announced this week that it is adding about 100 jobs for web developers, assistant buyers, warehouse managers and others.

Nationally, just more than 1 million people applied last week for either state unemployment insurance or the federal pandemic benefits.

Any rebound is vulnerable so long as the coronavirus is not contained, said Bill Adams, senior economist at PNC Financial Services. With the latest surge in the number of cases, he said, “This is a particularly conflicted moment for the economic recovery.”

In some sectors, like construction and motor vehicles manufacturing, spending is down and hiring is flat.

But the hardest hit is the hospitality industry. Georgia has about 75,000 fewer hospitality jobs now than in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We don’t anticipate restaurant jobs to recover until next year — maybe mid-year, maybe after — as a vaccine becomes available and widely used,” said Mathieu Stevenson, chief executive officer of Snagajob, which lists millions of jobs online.

Since the pandemic began, more than 4 million new jobless claims have been processed in Georgia, nearly half judged to be valid.

Last week, accommodation and food services accounted for 4,768 new claims in the state, the most of any sector.

Some optimistic forecasters say the economy will bounce back strong, arguing that recession was caused by pandemic-triggered shutdowns, not a structural problem.

But that ignores the economic scarring caused by millions of layoffs, cautioned economist Rebecca Lessem of Carnegie-Mellon University.

People who are out of work are forced to make spending choices that affect other people’s incomes, she said. Sometimes they don’t pay rent, buy goods or purchase services — and it takes time to reverse the damage, she said.

“That cycles through the whole economy," Lessem said. "If I lose my job at a restaurant, then I don’t have the money to go out to anyone else’s restaurant.

New jobless claims, Georgia

week ending

Oct. 10: 54,166

Oct. 17: 44,892

Oct. 24: 43,695

Oct. 31: 37,253

Nov. 7: 23,827

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Trajectory of new jobless claims, Georgia

Worst week, pre-pandemic: 41,522 (Jan. 10, 2009)

Worst week, during pandemic: 390,132 (April 4, 2020)

Average, last four weeks: 37,417

Average week, Feb. 2019 to Feb. 2020: 5,548

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

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