Construction has been the fastest-growing sector in Atlanta. Job growth, while not as strong as first reported, was still solid last year. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
Photo: LM Otero
Photo: LM Otero

Georgia job growth last year wasn’t as robust as first thought

Turns out that Georgia’s economy in 2018 was good – but not as good as initially reported.

The state added 87,500 jobs, a solid year of hiring, but a 27 percent decrease from what had been previously reported, according to a report Monday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“That places the state essentially at the same growth rate as the nation,” said Atlanta-based Michael Wald, formerly a senior economist at the BLS. “Previously, it looked like Georgia was exceeding the nation’s growth rate.”

The government had originally reported job growth of 119,200 for Georgia – which would have been the state’s strongest performance since 2014. Instead, the year was stronger than 2017, but weaker than the prior four years.

“Several areas – including Atlanta and Athens – show big downward revisions,” Wald said.

The biggest shortfall came in the sector that includes logistics like warehousing and distribution of goods, according to data released Tuesday by the Georgia Department of Labor.

That sector actually added 18,800 fewer jobs than first thought, officials said.

Local businesses have said they are still seeing good growth.

Metro Atlanta, which has more than half the state’s jobs, accounted for slightly more than half of Georgia’s shortfall, according to the report. The region gained 52,800 jobs, which was 16,500 fewer than had first been reported. But Athens, a much smaller metro, had the sharper drop – from 3.9 percent growth to 0.7 percent growth in the number of jobs added.

Athens gained 700 jobs last year instead of 3,800 jobs.

The BLS estimates job growth or loss based on monthly surveys. Later, it revises its report based on more extensive information.

Jeffrey Humphreys, director of the Selig Center at the University of Georgia, said he was skeptical of the initial report for 2018. That caution was justified.

“You have to take the monthly numbers with a grain of salt. And last year I thought those numbers were way too high,” he said.

Those month-to-month numbers are typically announced by the state’s Department of Labor. For example, the department next week will release figures for Georgia’s job growth in February.

Mark Butler, Georgia’s labor commissioner, was unavailable for comment on Monday.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.