Six points for sounding smart about today’s Atlanta job report

The metro Atlanta unemployment rate edged down to 4.9 percent in October, from 5.0 percent in September, the government reported today.

It was a pretty good month for the job market: More people came into the market looking for work and got jobs, more people got hired and the number of unemployed dropped, according to the state department of labor.

A year ago, the jobless rate was 5.3 percent. Improvement in the rate has been slow since then because about 113,000 people have entered the labor force. But an even larger number of people found work.

That meant the rate fell, just not dramatically.

Unemployment rates for the metro area now hover at levels like those of 2007, before the start of the Great Recession.

And while the pace of the improvement might have been slow, unemployment is a far cry from the double-digit worst of the post-recession labor market, when joblessness crested at 10.6 percent. And it means that Atlanta’s jobless rate is again slightly better than the national average.

The jobless rate for the United States is 5.0 percent.

Last week, the Labor Department announced an increase in the state’s jobless rate – from 5.1 percent to 5.2 percent. The state’s rate is massaged somewhat to account for seasonal patterns. The metro Atlanta rate is not adjusted that way, so in some ways, it is a clearer picture of what has actually happened.

Economists often stress that one month’s data can be unreliable, so the more important question is about the longer arc of the economy. And that longer trend has been positive.

Here’s what is going on:

1. Trajectory. In the past 12 months, metro Atlanta has added 70,400 jobs – more than half the jobs added in Georgia.

2. Octoberfest. The number of jobs in metro Atlanta grew by 25,600.

That was the second-strongest October in the past two decades. The strongest October was last year, when metro Atlanta added 30,600 jobs.

During the previous five years, Atlanta had averaged a gain of 22,600 jobs during October.

3. Steady as she goes. The pace of job growth has been relatively steady.

So far during 2016, metro Atlanta has added 49,800 jobs. That is just about the same as during the first nine months of last year, although it is slower growth than during 2013 and 2014.

4. Winners. The winners’ circle was a big one. Among the sectors that grew during the month:

— The corporate sector, known as professional and business services, added 9,600.

— Logistics, known as trade, transportation and warehousing, grew by 6,500.

— Education and health services, which is mostly health care, expanded by 4,700.

— Government of all kinds added 2,200.

— Construction added 1,600.

— Financial and other services expanded by 1,000.

— Leisure and hospitality – that is tourism, restaurants and entertainment, inched up by about 100 jobs.

5. Losers (singular). The only sector that lost jobs during the month was manufacturing, which dropped 100 positions.

6. Perspective. After six years of job growth, the Atlanta economy has added about 400,000 jobs. Yet it has still not completely undone the damage done by the recession.

— There are still about 140,000 people out of work and looking for a job.

That number doesn’t include those who have retired early or just given up looking. But more than one-third — roughly 50,000 people – have been searching for six months or more.

— Many of the jobs created are in fields like tourism that typically do not pay very well.

— The data isn’t definitive, but it indicates that many people are getting part-time work or working more than one job.

The Georgia Department of Labor encourages jobseekers to include its job search web site as part of the job search.

The department offers additional labor market data online here and more detailed information here.


A look at the October economy in metro Atlanta

Jobs added or lost in October

2006 ……….. 24,200

2007 ……….. 100

2008 ……….. -4,200

2009 ……….. 6,100

2010 ……….. 22,900

2011 ……….. 13,200

2012 ……….. 22,500

2013 ……….. 24,100

2014 ……….. 22,600

2015 ……….. 30,600

2016 ……….. 25,600


October unemployment rate, (in percent)

2006 …….. 4.3

2007 …….. 4.6

2008 …….. 7.1

2009 ……… 10.6

2010 ……… 10.2

2011 …….. 9.8

2012 ……. 8.4

2013 ……. 7.6

2014 ……. 6.3

2015 ……. 5.3

2016 ……. 4.9


Jobs lost or gained, January through October

2009 ………. -122,600

2010 ………. 17,000

2011 ………. 29,600

2012 ………. 32,800

2013 ………. 55,500

2014 ………. 71,900

2015 ………. 49,100

2016 ………. 49,800


Pace of growth over the past year, by sector

Construction up 7.4 percent

Manufacturing up 0.8 percent

Trade, Transportation, and Utilities up 2.3 percent

Information down 0.2 percent

Financial Activities up 2.9 percent

Professional and Business Services up 3.7 percent

Education and Health Services up 3.5 percent

Leisure and Hospitality up 3.9 percent

Other Services down 1.8 percent

Government up 1.5 percent

Total jobs up 2.7 percent

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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