Metro Atlanta adds 12,300 jobs in March, dominates state’s growth

But size of workforce dips as expansion slows

Metro Atlanta added 12,300 jobs last month, continuing to capture the lion’s share of new jobs in Georgia, even as the overall expansion shows signs of leveling off.

The metro region's unemployment rate declined from 3.8% in February to 3.6% in March. That represents about 110,000 people out of work and actively looking for a job – down from nearly 300,000 after the recession in early 2010.

The jobless rate is now approaching the record lows reached at the end of the 1990s expansion, when, for several years, the rate was 3.5% or less, hitting an all-time low of 2.6%, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

"Overall, March was a very good month," said Mark Butler, the state's labor commissioner. "The numbers continue to improve."

Over the past year, metro Atlanta has added 60,300 jobs – 70% of the new jobs added in Georgia – while the number of new claims for unemployment insurance fell 15% from a year ago.

In a sign of a potential slowdown, though, the size of the metro Atlanta workforce dipped during March. That means fewer jobseekers.

The number of people in the labor force typically grows during the first three months of the year. From January through March of last year, the metro area's labor force expanded by 24,445. During the same three months of this year, the labor force declined by 11,591.

In the previous five Marches, Atlanta added an average of 16,700 jobs, so this month’s hiring was lower.

Georgia added 14,200 jobs during March, also less than usual for a March, typically a big hiring month. In seasonally adjusted terms, which smooth out typical monthly swings, the state reported just a 1,600-job gain.

Still, the overall picture remains positive for workers even as it becomes more challenging for employers.

Falling unemployment gives workers more confidence to leave a job they do not like or to be tougher in negotiations for what they want. And it compels some companies to offer higher pay or other benefits to attract the workers they want.

That is one reason that Two Men and a Truck, a moving company, emphasizes the chance that workers will have to move up, said Holly Stewart, owner of two franchises with four offices in metro Atlanta.

Stewart, who started as a mover at the company, is adding about 50 movers and five supporting staff in the next few months as she gears up for the busy season. She said that so far, she hasn’t had trouble finding workers.

“We see people looking for a change, people new to the area and looking for a job,” she said. “We see stay-at-home parents ready to go back into the workforce. We see people switching companies too.”

Starting wages are between $10 and $16 an hour, she said. That gives the company flexibility to adjust offers depending on needs.

Two Men and a Truck is adding about 250 workers this spring at its 17 offices in metro Atlanta, said Johanna Weitzel, recruiting and retention manager for the Michigan-based company.

Metro Atlanta, engine for Georgia

Job growth past 12 months: 60,300

Share of state’s job growth: 70%

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Unemployment rate, metro Atlanta

Highest: 10.6% (Jan-Feb, 2010)

Lowest: 2.6% (Dec, 2000)

Most recent: 3.6% (March, 2019)

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Metro Atlanta March, jobs added or lost

2009: -9,800

2010: 11,900

2011: 16,200

2012: 15,000

2013: 9,300

2014: 31,500

2015: 11,700

2016: 7,400

2017: 16,500

2018: 16,300

2019: 12,300

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Metro job growth, past 12 months

1. Atlanta: 60,300

2. Augusta: 3,600

3. Gainesville: 3,500

4. Dalton: 2,200

5. Warner Robins: 1,600

6. Valdosta: 1,100

7. Columbus: 1,000

8. Macon: 900

9. Rome: 700

10. Brunswick: 700

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Jan-March, change in metro Atlanta’s workforce 

2010 -29,636

2011 -1,687

2012 -14,836

2013 -30,389

2014: 7,217

2015: 11,376

2016: 52,588

2017: 43,562

2018: 24,445

2019: -11,591

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics