The metro Atlanta economy basically broke even in December, but even if it was an uninspiring end to the year, 2017 was a good one for job growth.
The region’s economy finished with 55,600 more jobs than a year earlier, including 1,200 added last month, according to the monthly report from the state Labor Department.
“This is a very good year for the Atlanta area,” said Mark Butler, state labor commissioner. “All of the major indicators trended in the right direction.”
Metro Atlanta accounted for two-thirds of the state's job growth last year.
The metro unemployment rate dipped to 4.1 percent, down from 4.2 percent in November and 5.0 percent a year ago. More impressively, that improvement came while the labor force was adding 68,210 people.
Metro Atlanta ended the year with 2.79 million jobs.
The healthy showing was not without some flaws. It was, for example, weaker job growth than in any year since 2012. In 2016, the economy added 90,300 jobs.
Growth was broad, with hiring strong in higher-paid corporate jobs as well as lower-wage jobs in leisure and hospitality, as well as many modestly compensated positions in the health sector.
The only sector to lose jobs was manufacturing, the labor department reported.
And not all jobs are good ones, said Mark Bell, managing principal in the Atlanta office of Diversified Trust, a wealth management firm. "The one missing piece in this Cinderella story has obviously been wage growth."
That could change if the pace of growth picks up, since the economy is getting “a sugar rush” from the huge tax cut passed late last year, he said. “So in the first quarter and second quarter, we will continue the trend of growth that is higher than what the economists said it would be.”
The overall economic expansion is now the third-oldest of any since World War Two, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. But it generally takes a cause to trigger a recession -- a “negative shock” Bell said.
Among possible shocks would be a dramatic spike in gas prices, a war, a constitutional crisis, a sag in corporate profits or soaring inflation.
None of those things seem likely in the imminent future, he said.
Still, when you are managing billions of dollars in wealth – as Diversified Trust does – you should never be cocky, he said. “The skeptic in us says, after you have a sugar rush, do you have a sugar crash?”
Atlanta unemployment rate in December
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 5.1 percent
2016 5.0 percent
2017 4.1 percent
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor
Metro Atlanta job growth for the year
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor ________________________
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