Metro Atlanta job growth for 2017: solid growth, sputtering finish

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

2007,  18,700

2008,  -87,900

2009,  -118,000

2010,  22,600

2011,  42,000

2012,  49,200

2013,  78,100

2014,  104,100

2015,  70,600

2016,  90,300

2017,  55,600

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor ________________________

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AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on, including these stories:

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