Atlanta job growth modest in May, but accounts for most of Georgia’s

A long expansion has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in metro Atlanta, but the pace of growth has slowed. The economy last month added 9,600 jobs, which wasn’t enough to keep the unemployment rate from rising. (AJC file phto).
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A long expansion has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in metro Atlanta, but the pace of growth has slowed. The economy last month added 9,600 jobs, which wasn’t enough to keep the unemployment rate from rising. (AJC file phto).

If you’re a Georgian in need of a job, metro Atlanta is the place to be.

Even though job growth this spring hasn't been as robust as in the past, the region continues to attract the bulk of new employment in the state.

Now, 62% of all of the jobs in Georgia are in metro Atlanta, with 9,600 added last month, according to the state Labor Department.

That weaker-than-average growth in May contributed to a slight rise in the region’s unemployment rate, which climbed from 3.0% in April to 3.3%, according to a report Thursday from the Georgia Labor Department. Still, there’s no doubt where the state’s economy engine is located.

Since the current expansion began in 2010, 600,000 new jobs have been added to the metro area's economy. In the past 12 months, the number is 52,400 – more than three-quarters of the new jobs in the state and 10 times as many jobs as the Gainesville region, which posted the second highest job growth with 4,700 new positions.

Four sectors account for most of the new jobs: construction, hospitality, corporateand healthcare.

Some economists speculate that the workforce is reaching its limit. That is, most people who want to work are working. And that, in turn, sparks concern that Atlanta's economic advance could stall if too many companies cannot find the workers they need to grow.

There are other reasons for worry. Continuing trade battles could undercut Atlanta sectors that depend on shipping, logistics and overseas corporate investments.

During the five previous Mays, metro Atlanta averaged 16,400 new jobs, significantly higher than 2019’s numbers.

Yet metro Atlanta's job market may be a little stronger than the May number indicates: It doesn't include self-employed people, freelancers and those working in the "gig" economy.

Most economists say those workers are not a large enough portion of the workforce to distort the data. But there are continued signs that their impact is growing.

Adrienne Johnston works between 35 and 45 hours a week as a presentation designer – an expert in setting up tools like PowerPoint to make a company's messaging more effective.

She had been vice president of operations at a wealth management company and felt burned out and frustrated. Two years ago, she left to become a freelancer.

Now, the Decatur resident is pretty confident that her skills in presentation design could quickly get her a job on a corporate payroll — if she wanted one.

“But I’m not going back. I make twice as much money, work about half as much. I don’t get benefits or bonuses, but I still think I am coming out ahead.”

Because she works as much as she does, she's counted by the government as employed. But positions like hers aren't counted in the overall number of jobs because she's not on a payroll.

She gets much of her work through one of the companies that connect businesses to workers for short-term needs. In this case, the "middle man" is Fiverr, a nine-year-old Israeli company with offices in a number of U.S. cities.

"It's a marketplace for freelancers," said Abby Forman, a Fiverr spokeswoman.

For workers like Johnston, the perks are flexibility and good pay. For businesses, of course, the benefits are likewise clear: They pay only when they need something done.

Fiverr estimates that metro Atlanta has about 150,000 people doing freelance work.

“And all the research we’ve done tells us that this kind of work is growing,” Forman said.

Metro job growth, last 12 months

Atlanta: 52,400

Gainesville: 4,700

Augusta: 2,800

Dalton: 1,700

Warner Robins: 1,600

Savannah: 1,200

Valdosta: 1,200

Macon: 800

Brunswick: 800

Athens: 600

Sources: Georgia Labor Department

Metro Atlanta job growth, May

2010: 18,300

2011: 8,300

2012: 12,000

2013: 9,700

2014: 19,700

2015: 20,800

2016: 12,500

2017: 13,000

2018: 15,900

2019: 9,600

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Labor Department

May unemployment rate, metro Atlanta

High: 9.9% (2010)

Low: 2.9% (1999)

Current: 3.3% (2019)

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Labor Department