A prospective teacher is interviewed by school representatives during a July job fair in DeKalb County. KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC

Atlanta jobless rate flat, but hiring weak

If this were a football game, you’d say this team has started the third quarter badly: the metro Atlanta economy lost 16,700 jobs in July, although the unemployment rate held steady at 4.8 percent, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.

And while the economy is typically weak during the month, this was the worst July since 2012, as the metro economy shed more than twice as many jobs as in an average July.

AJC economics Writer, Michael Kanell explains how to read each of the three major jobs reports released monthly.

The number of people in the workforce usually rises in July, partly because of recent graduates. Moreover, many school employees are still out of work, and summer is typically a weak hiring period.

Meanwhile, some students leave jobs during the month to return to school.

So, “it’s not surprising to see the July decline in jobs, especially with the earlier school start dates this year,” Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said.

The unemployment rate is the ratio of unemployed job seekers as a portion of the total number of people either working or searching. So the jobless rate can rise when more people are looking, unless hiring absorbs the increase.

The economy has added more than a half-million jobs since hitting bottom in late 2009.

But 2017 has been bumpy. Through July the metro economy added just 7,000 jobs, down from 12,000 for the same period of 2016.

In general, if the Atlanta economic engine is humming, it really kicks into gear after school goes back into session. Last year, the economy added 78,300 jobs from August through December.

About 140,000 people in metro Atlanta are counted as unemployed – that is, they are out of work and also looking for a job. That is more than at the start of the recession, but compare it to seven years ago when the region started the year with 295,009 unemployed.

On the other hand, roughly 30 percent of the jobless have been looking for more than six months.

Job growth over the past year has been mostly at the opposite ends of the pay scale. The corporate sector has grown by 33,700 jobs, while leisure and hospitality has added 15,300 positions, according to the Labor Department.

However, the solid paying blue collar sectors have not done as well. Construction – which boomed for years – was up a modest 4,100 jobs during the year. And manufacturing was down by 100 jobs – the only sector negative for the year.

Manufacturing could suffer more if there is a trade war or if the U.S. dollar stays strong, making Georgia products more expensive overseas. And two of the huge projects that have driven hiring in construction are finished – the new Falcons and Braves stadiums.

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AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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