Metro Atlanta economy accelerates in June

Warehouse work has been one of the fastest-growing sectors during the pandemic and hiring continues to be strong.
Caption
Warehouse work has been one of the fastest-growing sectors during the pandemic and hiring continues to be strong.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The shipping supply company Uline is hiring.

Intent on adding about 100 employees at their Braselton warehouse, the company is luring candidates with starting pay of $24 an hour and the promise of a profit-sharing bonus north of $7,000.

It’s a sign of the times — or, at least, the moment.

The region is flush with jobs and companies are jostling for workers as the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic continues. “Everyone is looking for people,” said Terry Knox, human resources manager at Uline.

Metro Atlanta last month added 38,500 jobs, including 5,500 in warehousing and transportation, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.

Though the unemployment rate rose to 4.5% in June from 4.0% last month, the reason for the increase is encouraging: Thousands of workers who had not been in the labor market came off the sidelines, said Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner.

Job openings are plentiful and layoffs relatively few, he said.

Statewide, the Department of Labor processed 12,605 initial claims for unemployment, the lowest weekly total since mid-March 2020.

Metro Atlanta is still 84,600 jobs shy of where it was prior to the pandemic, but the region has recovered nearly 300,000 of the jobs lost in the spring 2020 shutdowns.

After the 2007-2009 Great Recession, it took nearly seven years for the region to reach its previous employment level. The economy is on pace to recover to its pre-pandemic in less than 30 months, said economist Tom Smith of Emory’s Goizueta School of Business.

There is growing consumer demand for services and goods, which drives hiring. But the rebound depends on an array of factors, including stemming coronavirus infections, the lingering effects of government stimulus programs and the availability of in-person school for families with children, he said.

Many businesses are having trouble filling open positions — especially lower-paid, frontline jobs — as they try to respond to expanded spending. Companies like Uline are sweetening the pot with higher pay or incentives.

According to the Atlanta Federal Reserve, which tracks wages, median pay for all jobs has increased 3.2% in the past 12 months.

“I think the low end of the labor market will continue to ramp up in pay,” said Tom Visconti, the chief executive of PeopleLift, an Atlanta-based staffing firm that specializes in hourly workers. “We’ve seen some 20% increases in the past six months.”

Gale Dale, human resources manager at John Soules Food in Gainesville, said the chicken-cooking factory has a stable core of employees, but has had trouble filling slots and retaining workers for its evening shift.

The factory has turned to Instawork, a digital platform used by hourly workers, in an effort to fill the 10 openings it currently has.

John Soules offers a $520 bonus after a month on the job and $520 more after two months, Dale said. “We give people an extra $100 after a week, and still some people won’t hang in.”

Metro Atlanta jobs added

February: 15,700

March: 16,800

April: 3,200

May: 11,500

June: 38,500

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Job growth in June by sector

Administrative and support services: 10,100

Transportation and warehousing: 5,500

Accommodation and food services: 4,500

Professional, scientific and technical services: 4,100

Arts, entertainment and recreation: 3,000

Construction: 1,800

Local government: 1,800

Wholesale trade: 1,600

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Metro Atlanta jobs

Compared to Feb. 2020: -84,600

Compared to April 2020: +296,700

Compared to June 2019: -65,200

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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