Metro Atlanta adds jobs in July as economic recovery continues

The pandemic hit hospitality hard, a sector with a large number of women. Many of the jobs have not come back, but the sector has been hiring faster than any other in Georgia.

Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

The pandemic hit hospitality hard, a sector with a large number of women. Many of the jobs have not come back, but the sector has been hiring faster than any other in Georgia.

Despite a surge in COVID-19 cases, metro Atlanta added more jobs last month than in any July since Georgia hosted the 1996 Olympic games, state officials said Thursday.

The additional 18,500 jobs was another solid step forward as the region continues to recover from earlier job losses triggered by the pandemic. Hiring was especially strong among restaurants, bars, hotels and motels, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

The metro area’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.5% in June to 3.2%, the lowest since late 2019. Still, there are 70,000 fewer jobs than just before the pandemic began.

July is usually a time when Georgia sheds positions, as seasonal school employees leave jobs, the convention business ebbs, and many factories take summer breaks and lay off workers. The Atlanta area averages a loss of 10,600 jobs each July.

The only previous example of a mid-summer hiring binge came a quarter-century ago, when the Olympic Games brought tens of thousands of visitors — and more than $1 billion in spending — to the area.

This year, “We are seeing positive labor market data across the state,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. That’s been spurred by pent-up consumer demands and the added stimulus of billions of dollars in federal spending.

Last month, the metro Atlanta economy added 31,400 jobs and has now regained 81% of the jobs lost because of the pandemic, though economists warn that the virus’s fourth wave might scare consumers and chill spending.

Concerns about the delta variant have persuaded some companies to delay their return to the office, which means they won’t be hiring for positions like receptionists and executive assistants, said Anjanette Johnson, Atlanta-based area director at Randstad US, a staffing firm.

“Some people are holding back for a remote job,” Johnson said, adding that job candidates often ask about working from home. “That question isn’t the first one people have, but it’s in the top three.”

And some workers who left the workforce aren’t ready to come back; they still have concerns about the virus, or are waiting for daycare centers to reopen, said Atlanta economist Michael Wald.

The share of people in the workforce now is smaller than before the pandemic, according to an analysis of government data by USA Facts. If the labor force had the same share of the population it did in early 2020, about 60,000 more people would be working or looking for jobs.

Many workers have more choices now.

Ellie Vigil, 29, of Winder, had a supervisor’s job at a Gainesville factory but didn’t like the hours. She had heard good things about Uline’s massive distribution center in Braselton. She went to one of the company’s regular job fairs and was hired as a packer.

“I wanted a better work-life balance,” she said. “And this is a good change of pace.”

Metro Atlanta job growth in July

Best: 28,400 (1996)

Average: -10,600 (2001-2019)

Recent: 18,500 (2021)


Metro Atlanta unemployment rate

Lowest: 2.6% (December 1999)

Highest: 12.6% (April 2020)

Pre-pandemic: 3.3% (February 2020)

Recent: 3.2% (July 2021)


Metro Atlanta jobs

Total: 2,794,700

Lost early in pandemic: 381,500

Added since April 2020: 308,300

Added last month: 18,500

Added in 2021: 165,800

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor