Georgia's unemployment rate dropped in April, but the economy still lost 2,800 jobs, the state labor department said Thursday.
The jobless rate continued a long march of improvement, slipping to 5.0 percent from 5.1 percent in March. It was 5.4 percent a year ago.
Unemployment, which had soared into double digits at the end of the recession, has been slowly coming down since.
But the state shed 2,800 jobs during the month, a worse performance than the average April.
So the overall news is positive, but not clear: hiring seems to have stalled during the month, but the jobless rate is back to the level it was when the economy dropped into recession and the number of layoffs was apparently low.
"New claims for unemployment insurance, a measure of new layoffs, dropped to the lowest level we've seen in nearly 19 years," said Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner.
Here are seven ways to sound smart around the water cooler talking about Georgia’s jobless rate:
1. Look back. Georgia unemployment rate a year ago was 5.4 percent, so we have made progress.
During those same 12 months, more than 145,000 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 even farther, 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 above the national rate of 4.4 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.
At least until now. We’ll see about next month.
3. Tell Sherman to set the Wayback Machine for the recent past. It was a slightly weaker than average April for job growth. During the five previous years, from January to February, the number of jobs in the state grew by an average of 7,600.
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 a very robust 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 April and looking for work was 252,639.
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 manufacturing, which grew by 2,200, information services, up 1,800, other services up 1,600 and government payrolls expanded by 1,300.
7. Look at the weak ones. Job losses came in construction, which dropped 3,000, trade, transportation and warehousing -- the logistics sector -- which shed 2,600, leisure and hospitality was down 2,400, the corporate sector called professional and business services slipped 1,200 and education and health services, edging down 600 jobs.
The state has its own site for job seekers. Click here http://dol.georgia.gov/find-job
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Georgia’s job situation
A decade of Aprils: job change during the month
A decade of April unemployment rates in Georgia
2007 4.4 percent
2008 5.8 percent
2009 9.9 percent
2010 10.4 percent
2011 10.1 percent
2012 9.3 percent
2013 8.3 percent
2014 7.3 percent
2015 6.1 percent
2016 5.4 percent
2017 5.0 percent
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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