Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped in March to its lowest rate since December of 2007, the state labor department said Thursday.
The jobless rate slipped to 5.1 percent, down from 5.3 percent in February. Unemployment, which had soared into double digits at the end of the recession, has been slowly coming down since. It was 5.5 percent a year ago.
The state added 9,500 jobs during the month, slightly more than average for March during the past three years.
It took a long time, but the jobless rate is back to the level it was when the economy dropped into recession, although there are still more than 257,000 people out of work and actively looking for a job.
Layoffs were 11 percent lower than during the same month a year ago, said Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner.
Here are seven ways to sound smart in talking about Georgia’s jobless rate:
1. Look back. Georgia unemployment rate a year ago was 5.5 percent, so it may look as if we just haven’t made much progress. How, you ask, could the Georgia economy add more than 100,000 jobs in 12 months and not see the unemployment rate plummet?
Here’s the thing, though. During those same 12 months, more than 100,000 people have been added to the job market. They moved here from somewhere else. They came out of school. They tossed their aprons aside, charged out of the kitchen and went searching for a job.
So, if the unemployment rate hasn’t gone down all that much, it is mainly because there are a lot more people in the labor force, looking for work.
2. Look at the Big Picture and compare. Georgia’s rate is still well above the national rate of 4.5 percent. It has not been below the national average since 2007, before the economy crashed.
However, during the past several years of recovery, the pace of job growth in Georgia has been faster than the nation expansion.
3. Look into the Wayback Machine. It was a slightly stronger than average March for job growth. During the five previous years, from January to February, the number of jobs in the state grew by an average of 8,300.
4. Take that telescopic view. When things were at their weakest – coming out of the 2007-09 recession – the Georgia jobless rate was 10.5 percent – not including many tens of thousands of people who had simply given up looking for work.
The jobless rate before the recession was below 5.0 percent. The very lowest rate on record for the state was in November of 2000: 3.4 percent.
The rate is now back to where it was when the recession began more than ten years ago.
5. Remember what unemployed means. There has been nearly seven years of job growth. The number of jobs in the state has increased by more than 600,000. And yet, in Georgia’s workforce of 5 million people, there are still more than a quarter-million Georgians actively looking for work.
The estimated number of Georgians who were unemployed in March and looking for work was 257,648.
That is far lower than it was during the worst of the jobs crisis. But a historically high share of the unemployed have been looking for more than six months. And anyone not actively looking for work is not officially counted as unemployed.
6. Look at the strong sectors. The sectors adding the most employees were construction, up 4,700 jobs, the corporate sector, up 2,600 jobs, logistics and trade, up 1,800 jobs, information, which rose 1,400, leisure and hospitality, which added 1,200, financial services, which expanded by 900 and education and health, up 600.
7. Look at the weak ones. Some job losses came in government, various services and manufacturing.
The state has its own site for job seekers. Click here http://dol.georgia.gov/find-job
Georgia’s job situation
Job change, March
Unemployment rate in percent, March
Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics