Metro Atlanta job growth solid in October

Amidst worries about a trade war and higher interest rates, the Atlanta economy has kept churning along, adding 16,500 jobs in October, according to a report from the state Labor Department Thursday.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.4 percent from 3.1 percent the month before, mostly because the labor force grew – a sign that robust hiring has lured some previously discouraged workers back into the job market.

Layoffs were low – 13 percent below the levels of last year.

"This holiday season we have much to be thankful for," said Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner. "The job market has been very robust this year."

With holiday shopping such a huge part of the economy, the last three months of the year are very important to job growth: In a good year, there is a lot of hiring for blue collar work in warehouses, trucks, delivery of packages. They aren't necessarily the best paying positions, but they are crucial jobs for many people.

Wage growth has been slower than the growth in rents and mortgages, so for many households second jobs are important.

But many seasonal jobs will evaporate in the new year, so the continued growth trajectory depends on a growing core of technology and corporate jobs. And while it was a disappointment for Amazon to pass up Atlanta for its massive and much-touted regional headquarters, economists say it is no reflection on the region's prospects.

Many economists say most growth in a region is produced by a constellation of low-profile, local companies that are not receiving huge, taxpayer-provided subsidies like Amazon would have been given.

For example, Giga Data Centers is an Atlanta-based builder and operator of hubs that handle the flow and storage of information for companies. Giga has just a dozen employees, but the company is here and is growing, said Jake Ring, chief executive.

“Right now, Atlanta is only a sales office for us, but Atlanta is also a target market for us,” Ring said.

Metro Alanta is a hub for tech growth in the southeast, and the company is hiring business, sales and engineering staff, he said. "We plan to add about 20 people by heend of next year. Atlanta definitely has the technical capability — the people with the right training. There are very good people to hire for that kind of growth."

Overall, the metro Atlanta economy has added 46,000 jobs so far this year – better than last year's performance, the Labor Department said.

Job growth has been very broad, hitting a range of incomes:

  • Corporate jobs, which tend to be higher-paying.
  • Hospitality and healthcare, which – except for physicians and managers – are typically lower-paying positions.
  • Construction, the fastest-hiring sector, where wages are typically in the middle of the spectrum. The number of construction jobs is up about 9 percent from a year ago.

Economists have been fretting about several factors that could chill growth.

The expanding trade war with China threatens Atlanta's global companies, its manufacturing and the huge logistics business which moves goods in and out of the state. Meanwhile, higher interest rates make it more expensive to buy a home or car or borrow money for a business.

The stock market – sometimes a harbinger of trouble – has been volatile, its periodic plunges threatening to undermine corporate confidence, employee savings and retiree investments.

But so far, Atlanta's growth has shrugged off those issues.

In the past 12 months, metro Atlanta has added 60,800 jobs. That represents about two-thirds of the jobs added in Georgia.

Atlanta job growth, Jan-Oct.

2009: -122,00

2010: 16,900

2011: 29,800

2012: 32,900

2013: 55,400

2014: 71,900

2015: 45,600

2016: 49,700

2017: 28,300

2018: 46,000

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Atlanta unemployment rate, October

2009: 10.6 percent

2010: 10.2 percent

2011: 9.8 percent

2012: 8.4 percent

2013: 7.6 percent

2014: 6.4 percent

2015: 5.4 percent

2016: 5.2 percent

2017: 4.2 percent

2018: percent

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics