Five things to know about Atlanta’s rising unemployment rate

The metro Atlanta unemployment rate rose to 5.0 percent in December, from 4.8 percent in November, the government reported today.

December is not typically a strong month for hiring and this one was true to form: the labor market was basically flat, losing about 100 positions. The labor force grew by nearly 21,000 people – which combines with weak hiring for a higher unemployment rate.

A year ago, the jobless rate for the region was 4.8 percent. But during the year, more than 100,000 people entered the labor force looking for work – and while most apparently found jobs, new workers were surging into the workforce faster than hiring, so the jobless rate has ticked up, the Labor Department reported.

Despite that lackluster finish to the year, the Atlanta economy added about 70,800 jobs during 2016, bringing the total number to more than 2.7 million.

Unemployment rates for the metro area the past few months have been near the levels of 2007, before the start of the Great Recession when they more than doubled. Layoffs are lower than they were a year ago, based on the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits.

But December was, if anything, a step backwards: Layoffs were up for the month.

And the unemployment rate in Atlanta continues to hover above that of the nation: The jobless rate for the United States is 4.7 percent. The jobless rate for the state of Georgia is 5.4 percent.

The state’s rate is massaged somewhat to account for seasonal patterns. The metro Atlanta rate is not adjusted that way, so in some ways, it is a clearer picture of what has actually happened.

Economists often stress that one month’s data can be unreliable, so the more important question is about the longer arc of the economy. And that longer trend has been positive.

Here’s what you should know to sound smart:

1. Don't forget the longer view. During 2016, metro Atlanta added 70,800 jobs – almost exactly the number added in 2015.

2. But that pretty good year had a weak finish. About 100 jobs were lost during the month.

3. Some sectors were winners. Among the sectors that grew during the month:

— Logistics (known as trade, transportation and warehousing) was the strongest, growing by 6,700.

— Federal and local government added 1,600 jobs.

— Information grew by 800.

4. There were losers. Hiring was weak or down in other sectors, the Labor Department said, including the corporate sector, financial and other services, manufacturing and construction. Both sectors typically lost ground at year's end.

5. And there is still frustration. There are still about 148,000 people out of work and looking for a job.

That is a lot better than during the recession, but it is higher than a year ago. And that number doesn’t include those who have retired early or just given up looking. And the frustration is not spread evently: Nearly one-third of the unemployed– so that would be more than 45,000 people – have been searching for six months or more.



Unemployment rate, December

2006………….. 4.2 percent

2007 …………. 4.9 percent

2008 ……….. 7.9 percent

2009 ……….. 10.4 percent

2010 ……….. 10.3 percent

2011 …………. 9.3 percent

2012 ………… 8.3 percent

2013 ………… 6.9 percent

2014 ………… 5.8 percent

2015 ………… 4.8 percent

2016 ………… 5.0 percent


Jobs added (or lost) in 2016

Jan ….. -45,000

Feb ….. 12,400

Mar ….. 14,000

Apr ….. 19,800

May …… 19,100

Jun ….. -7,400

Jul ….. -3,400

Aug …… 14,100

Sep ….. 600

Oct ….. 24,700

Nov ….. 22,000

Dec ….. -100

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics