Six things to know about Atlanta’s falling unemployment rate

Hiring can be robust and the unemployment rate can still rise. Judging the job market can be like math. Which is bigger, the number of new hires or the number of new job-seekers?

Hiring can be robust and the unemployment rate can still rise. Judging the job market can be like math. Which is bigger, the number of new hires or the number of new job-seekers?

The metro Atlanta unemployment rate dipped to 4.8 percent in November from a revised 5.0 percent in October, the government reported today.

In general, it was a pretty good month for the job market: More people came into the market looking for work, more people got hired overall and the number of unemployed dropped, according to the state department of labor and Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner.

A year ago, the jobless rate for the region was 4.9 percent. Improvement in the rate has been slow since then because about 115,000 people have entered the labor force. Most of them apparently found work.

But not all.

So that meant the unemployment rate hasn’t dropped dramatically, even if the overall chances of getting a job are getting better and layoffs are falling.

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

Layoffs are down, hiring is up, and the economy continues to grow more healthy, said Andy Decker, Atlanta-based regional president of staffing company Robert Half. "I feel like right after the election, a lot of people paused and took a breath. But then after that, it seems that everything has gone back to business as usual."

The hottest job skills are in technology and some financial analysis, Decker said.

Among those in demand are those in I.T. security, software developers, as well as financial compliance, audit and tax specialists, he said.

The jobless rate for the United States is 4.6 percent. The jobless rate for the state of Georgia is 5.3 percent.

Last week, the Labor Department announced an increase in the state’s jobless rate – from 5.2 percent to 5.3 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 68,200 jobs – that is the lion's share of the jobs added in Georgia.

2. Holiday season payrolls. The number of jobs in metro Atlanta in November grew by 19,200.

That was not quite as strong as the average of the past few years. The strongest November was in 2014, when metro Atlanta added 23,600 jobs. But the bulk of that hiring seemed to be related to holiday hiring.

3. Steady-ish as she goes. The pace of job growth has been relatively steady, though this year has been a tad slower than the past three.

So far during 2016, metro Atlanta has added more than 68,000 jobs. That compares with 69,600 in the first eleven months of last year and 95,500 in the first eleven months of 2014.

4. Winners. The winners' circle was a large one. The big storyh was logistics and retail, the sector known as trade, transportation and warehousing. It grew by 11,500. But among the other sectors that grew during the month, according to the labor department:

— The corporate sector, known as professional and business services, 3,000.

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

— Government of all kinds added 1,600.

— Manufacturing rose by 1,200 jobs.

— Financial and other services expanded by 1,000.

— Leisure and hospitality – that is tourism, restaurants and entertainment, inched up by 200 jobs.

5. Losers? The only sector that lost jobs during the month was construction, not a surprise as the weather turns cold. It was down 100 positions.

6. Perspective . Since hitting rock bottom in early 2010, the metro Atlanta economy has added more than 475,000 jobs and more than cut the official jobless rate in half. Yet it has still not completely undone the damage done by the recession.

— There are still about 142,000 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 nearly one-third – so that would be about 45,000 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.


Metro Atlanta unemployment rate in November

Unemployment rate, in percent

2006 ……… 4.3

2007 ……… 4.4

2008 ……… 7.2

2009 ….… 10.3

2010 ……. 10.5

2011 ……… 9.1

2012 ……… 8.0

2013 ……… 6.9

2014 ……… 6.0

2015 ……… 4.9

2016 ……… 4.8


Metro Atlanta jobs

Change, Jan. through Nov.

2008 …….. DOWN 75,600

2009 ……… DOWN 116,100

2010 ……………. UP 26,300

2011 …………….. UP 42,100

2012 …………….. UP 53,800

2013 ……………… UP 75,900

2014 ……………….UP 95,500

2015 ………………. UP 69,600

2016 ……………….UP 68,100

Source: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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