Metro Atlanta jobless rate drops to 3.5% in July

National unemployment rate is at 3.7%

Metro Atlanta's unemployment rate dropped in July to its lowest level since 2000, despite a dip in company payrolls and other signs the decade-long jobs expansion could be easing.

The 29-county region had 2.99 million employed residents last month, the jobless rate slipping to 3.5% from 3.7% in June, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

"July was another solid month for Georgia," said Mark Butler, the state's labor commissioner, in a statement. "Many areas of the state also increased the number of employed residents. Georgia continues to head in the right direction."

Nationally, the unemployment rate is 3.7%.

The jobless rate is calculated from a survey that asks people if they are working or actively seeking work.

The government also conducts a separate look at the number of people on company payrolls. That survey showed metro Atlanta with a 2,100-job loss in July, still a better-than-average performance for the month.

July is almost always a down month: Many executives are on vacation, schools are closed, factories take a break and tourists are at the beach. In fact, Metro Atlanta has shed jobs in 19 of the past 20 Julys.

So far this year, that jobs survey, based on preliminary data, shows metro Atlanta adding 4,300 jobs.

And in the past 12 months, the metro area's economy has added 58,000 jobs, the vast majority of the jobs added in the state of Georgia. Augusta, the metro area with the next-strongest growth, added less than one-tenth as many jobs, the Labor Department reported.

Thursday's report came a day after the government revised its estimate to show that the U.S. economy created 501,000 fewer jobs than thought during the 12 months ending in March. The state's job reports have not been revised to reflect that, officials said.

The revision offered fodder to economists who have argued that, despite low unemployment, growth has not been as strong as it seemed.

And even without considering the revision, some trends below the surface have been less than encouraging.

The flow of people entering the metro Atlanta workforce has been slowing down, threatening at some point to deprive the economy of the human capital needed for growth.

Also, there had been a long steady decline in the number of new jobless claims for unemployment insurance, but that improvement has pretty much stopped. Those claims are an indication of layoffs, so there's no sign that job cuts are growing, but they aren't decreasing either.

Perhaps most important, the larger forces affecting the local economy have become a lot less positive. While there's no sign that the nation's trade war with China has much hurt Atlanta's hiring, experts expect a prolonged trade tussle to hurt.

China is not the only source of headwinds.

Germany, Europe's largest economy, may be entering recession, while England is on the brink of leaving the European Union without a deal to smooth the exit.

Growth in metro Atlanta labor force, January-July

2014: 33,990

2015: 46,813

2016: 106,328

2017: 81,257

2018: 40,586

2019: 13,932

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Metro Atlanta job change, July

2014: -1,600

2015: -7,900

2016: -3,600

2017: -11,900

2018: -7,700

2019: -2,100

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Metro Atlanta unemployment rate

Lowest: 2.8% (Dec. 1999)

Highest: 10.6% (Feb. 2010)

Year ago: 4.0% (July, 2018)

Recent: 3.5% (July, 2019)

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Among current job listings

— Choice-filled Lives Network is seeking a seasoned and connected executive vice president of development.

— Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta is looking for a bilingual program specialist.

— The Atlanta Bar Association is looking to fill a marketing and communications position assisting the executive director.

— KeyPoint Alliance, Inc. is hiring a program coordinator.

— The Atlanta Opera is looking for someone to run its props department.

Source: Work For Good