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Georgia adds jobs, but storm tempers growth

Construction has been the state’s fastest-growing sector. Here in Jonesboro, workers assemble industrial storage shelving inside the massive new LTI Inc., food service equipment manufacturer building. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Construction has been the state’s fastest-growing sector. Here in Jonesboro, workers assemble industrial storage shelving inside the massive new LTI Inc., food service equipment manufacturer building. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Georgia added a modest number of jobs in October, but it was the 11th of the past 12 with growth, according to figures released by the state's Department of Labor Thursday.

Payrolls expanded by just 2,400 during October, far below the 10,900 average for the previous five Octobers — a month when retailers are typically gearing up for the holidays. Economists said Hurricane Michael, which disrupted work throughout much of southern Georgia, contributed to slower growth.

Despite the lackluster number for the month, the state has added 90,400 jobs so far this year – moderately better than last year's growth. And that growth has not been significantly dampened by fears of a trade war or several months of worry about the impact of stock market volatility.

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The state's unemployment rate during the month was 3.6 percent, edging down from 3.7 percent in September.

“We attract great jobs and more and more of them get filled,” said Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner. “I don’t see this slowing down any time soon.”

Earlier this week, a report from the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State predicted continued, but more modest, job growth through next year.

And while the state learned this week that Amazon was taking its huge regional headquarters elsewhere, it continued to generate technology growth from many small companies — a process that some experts think is better than spending money to lure outside companies.

For example, Atlanta-based Syfer has just eight employees, but plans to more than double in size by the middle of next year, according to Araz Feyzi, chief executive officer.

The start-up, which has backing from venture capitalists, has just started selling a device that protects privacy and cyber-security of small business and home computer networks.

Amazon had been offered many millions of dollars in government incentives for jobs that the company had said would have averaged $100,000 a year. As it happens, salaries at tiny Syfer likewise are in six figures, Feyzi said.

The company, will be hiring engineers as well as marketing and sales people, he said.

Georgia has about 300,000 private sector tech jobs, and the third-largest cluster of information security companies, according to the Technology Association of Georgia.

But tech has not been the strongest sector over the past year, according to Butler.

Two sectors have each added more than 20,000 jobs: the construction industry as well as the state's logistics and retail businesses.

Construction is a reactive sector, adding jobs when other areas do well, Butler said. "Builders are pushing to meet the demand for more housing, office and retail space."

Three other sectors added more than 10,000 positions: the corporate sector, education and health services and hospitality.

The report was not entirely positive. Jobless claims were up – although some of that might be hurricane related.

Georgia job changes, October 

2008: -20,500

2009: 1,700

2010: 9,100

2011: -8.100

2012: 14,700

2013: 11,300

2014: 4,900

2015: 17,800

2016: -2,400

2017: 23,100

2018: 2,400

Source: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Georgia jobs added, Jan.-October

2014: 121,400

2015: 122,700

2016: 96,900

2017: 82,200

2018: 90,400

Source: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics