Last month was a surprisingly strong one for job growth, as the state’s economy added 18,300 jobs, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
That hiring represented more than twice as much as the February average during the previous five years and it followed a job loss in January, when the economy typically sheds workers, according to Mark Butler, the state's labor commissioner.
"This is a very strong report," Butler said. "I expect Georgia will have a very good 2018. And, it's important that we have gotten off to a good start."
It is also unusually balanced growth since it came primarily from three sectors: high wage corporate jobs, low wage hospitality positions and the middle wage jobs in construction.
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The unemployment rate held steady at 4.5 percent, which actually represents progress, since the labor force was growing by nearly 16,000 people during the month. That means that the economy is currently creating jobs fast enough to soak up new entrants as young people emerge from school and new residents move from elsewhere.
Moreover, the labor force has expanded by more than 94,000 people in the past year while the jobless rate has come down from 5.2 percent.
The picture isn't perfect, however.
Nearly 228,000 Georgians are out of work and searching for a job. And a stubbornly high proportion of them – nearly 30 percent – have been searching in vain for six months or more. That also does not include those who have dropped out of the job market altogether – a larger share than before the Great Recession of 2007-09.
Since that painful downturn began, the Georgia unemployment rate has been consistently higher than the nation’s as a whole, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The current U.S. rate is 4.1 percent.
The Georgia Labor Department releases the unemployment rate for metro Atlanta and other cities next week.
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