Seasonal hiring underway but likely won’t make up for layoffs

Historically, the last few months of the year sees a surge of retail hiring for the holidays. This year, there may be jobs, but more of them will be for online businesses and the companies that move the packages. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Credit: Steven Senne

Credit: Steven Senne

Georgia companies continue to lay off workers in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but there was modest improvement in hiring in last month.

The Georgia Department of Labor processed 44,874 new claims for unemployment benefits last week, up slightly from the previous week, officials said Thursday.

In August, Georgia added 21,700 jobs, a slower pace than the three previous months. Even many profitable companies are being cautious, said Jason Delaney, economist at Georgia Gwinnett College.

“There’s just so much uncertainty," he said. "Businesses just hate that.”

With the holidays approaching, many are hoping hiring will pick up. But it won’t be the same as past years.

“Bricks and mortar retailers are going to be hiring fewer people,” Delaney said. “But places with a robust online presence will be hiring.”

The last three months of the year typically accounts for about 20% of Georgia’s job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I don’t want to jinx it, but we are seeing an uptick the past few weeks,” said Frank Green, chief executive of ExecuSource, an Atlanta-based staffing and recruitment company. “Maybe it’s the fact that the shock has worn off a bit and people are just moving forward.”

This year, even solid hiring won’t make up for lost ground: The state’s economy in September was down more than 200,000 jobs from the year’s start.

Holiday hiring is not spread evenly, Green said.

For companies that must manage a surge of online ordering, there has been an energetic search for software developers, computer specialists and other tech workers ― more positions than jobseekers, he said.

“But, among companies that support the airlines and travel industry, we are not seeing that right now,” he said.

Airlines are carrying about 65% fewer passengers than this time last year, which means an extra burden for the economic recovery in metro Atlanta, said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

Consumer spending in September was about 4% below the levels of a year earlier, but spending on transportation was down 50%, according to researchers at Harvard University.

Tens of thousands of jobs are tied to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which for years has been known as the world’s busiest. Besides serving as the hub for Delta Air Lines, the airport fuels business events and conferences, as well as the services they need.

“A return to the pre-pandemic pace of business and leisure travel is at least a couple of years off,” Vitner said. “These are going to be tough times for the airline, hotel and convention industry, which are all so important to Atlanta.”

Nationally, 840,000 jobless claims were processed last week. About 464,000 others filed for benefits under a federal program for freelancers, gig workers and self-employed people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

Georgia, new jobless claims

Week ending Oct. 3: 44,874

Average, past four weeks: 44,977

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

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

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, U.S. Employment and Training Administration

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