Metro Atlanta’s job growth strong, but uneven

Metro Atlanta added 25,100 jobs in December — its eighth consecutive month of economic growth, the state Department of Labor said Thursday.

Despite that good news, the 29-county region’s economy is still making up ground for the massive job losses triggered by pandemic shutdowns last spring. And the economical fallout from the spreading virus has continued into the new year.

Atlanta had 72,500 fewer jobs in December than it did a year earlier.

Construction and education were two sectors adding jobs. The holiday season meant more jobs in retail, as well — at both brick-and-mortar stores and the supply chains serving online operations.

Work-from-home techies are also in demand, said Ryan Hansen, metro market manager for staffing company Robert Half International. “For these people, if they are valuable, they’ll have multiple offers on the table,” he said.

With many people fearing the coronavirus, the worst job cuts are still coming from businesses that depend on in-person contact.

Atlanta has 25,000 fewer jobs in hospitality than a year ago, with most of the losses in hotels and restaurants, according to government data. More than 20,000 other service jobs have been lost, along with 11,200 in state and local government and 8,700 in manufacturing.

The Department of Labor’s online job board lists about 95,000 open positions in metro Atlanta, while 167,830 people are officially unemployed.

The count of the unemployed does not include people working fewer hours than they desire or those who have given up even looking for a job. So, between that and the job gains, the Atlanta unemployment rate dipped in December to 5.4% from 5.6% the month before.

Employment grew in 10 of the state’s 14 metro areas in December, according to Mark Butler, Georgia’s labor commissioner. He called that broad trend “indicative of the resilience that Georgia has to offer during this economic rebound.”

Metro Atlanta accounted for the lion’s share of the growth. The second-largest job gain was in metro Savannah, which added 1,900 positions.

Atlanta also has accounted for most of the state’s job losses during the pandemic — 93% of the total, according to Atlanta economist Mike Wald.

Statewide, the Department of Labor last week processed 28,016 new jobless claims, down 7,896 from the prior week. The sector with the most new claims continued to be accommodation and food services, followed by health care and social assistance.

Metro Atlanta Snapshot, December

Unemployment rate: 5.4%

Number of unemployed: 167,830

People in labor force: decreased by 15,431

Number of jobs: increased by 25,100

New jobless claims: increased 8 percent

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Metro Atlanta, compared to a year ago

Number of jobs: decreased by 72,500

Number of unemployed: increased 84,362

People in labor force: increased 177,405

New jobless claims: increased 458%

Source: Georgia Department of Labor

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Weekly jobless claims, Georgia

Worst, pre-pandemic: 41,522 (Jan. 10, 2010)

Highest, pandemic: 390,132 (April 4, 2020)

Average, pre-pandemic: 5,548

Average, last four weeks: 33,106

Last week: 28,016

Total since Mar. 21: 4,324,263

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

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