Georgia’s January job growth above average

Georgia’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5 percent in January, the state labor department said Thursday.

However, the state added 6,500 jobs, more than average for the month.

“While the rate was unchanged, our employers continued to create jobs, our labor force continued to grow and more people went to work,” said Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner. “This is a good way to start off a new year.”

Despite the new jobs, the unemployment rate did not fall because more people are in the labor force, looking for work.

Many are finding it, said Larry Feinstein, chief executive of Hire Dynamics, a Duluth-based staffing company. “There are more jobs than candidates. It is taking us longer to find the right people.”

Among the signs of improvement: It takes less time now for companies to shift temporary hires to full-time, he said.

Georgia’s unemployment rate a year ago was 5.6 percent, so on the surface, it may look as if the job market hasn’t gotten much better. But in those 12 months, the economy has added 114,700 jobs. However, the unemployment rate hasn’t gone down much because the number of people in the labor force has gone up.

During the five previous years, from December January the number of jobs in the state grew by an average of 6,100.

Despite nearly seven years of job growth, Georgia’s workforce of 4.9 million people still includes roughly 276,000 people looking for work.

That is far lower than during the worst of the jobs crisis. But more than 30 percent have been looking for more than six months. Anyone not actively looking for work is not officially counted as unemployed.

A broad swath of sectors added jobs in January: financial services grew by 4,300; leisure and hospitality was up 4,200; trade, transportation and warehousing grew by 3,700; government expanded by 1,600; manufacturing was up 1,100; and construction added 900.

Losses came in the corporate sector, which was down 7,700. Education and health services shed 1,100 positions and other services lost 1,000.

The national unemployment rate is 4.8 percent. Georgia’s has not been below the national average since 2007, before the economy slipped into recession. Despite that, the pace of job growth in Georgia is faster than the nation’s.