Six things to know about metro Atlanta’s rising jobless rate

The metro Atlanta unemployment rate rose from 5.1 percent to 5.3 percent last month as the economy took a modest stutter-step forward after the job losses in January, the state Labor Department reported this morning.

Despite stock market worries about global trouble siphoning off domestic growth, the economy of metro Atlanta – which hosts a large international trade – has not gone into a stall-out as feared.

Mike Belote, vice president and general manager at Peak 10, which provides information infrastructure said the company has grown to about 50 employees in Norcross and Alpharetta, about one-eighth its total workforce. There’s no reason to think the trajectory will change, he said.

“Atlanta is growing, Atlanta is hiring,” Belote said.

Metro Atlanta unemployment was 6.0 percent a year ago, the Labor Department said.

Here’s what is going on:

1. Employers were hiring. The economy added 7,700 jobs in February, not bad, but the month is usually a job-gainer and this was weaker than average. During the previous five Februarys, metro Atlanta gained an average of 16,100 jobs. The best February metro Atlanta ever had was 2011, when the economy added 35,000 jobs.

2. More of the unemployed found work. The jobless rate’s drift up to 5.3 percent reflects about 153,000 people in the region who are unemployed and searching for a job. That is down 16,000 from a year ago and it is down from more than a quarter of a million during the aftermath of the recession.

3. Hiring was concentrated in a few sectors: professional and business services, especially. But jobs were added in government, and health care and social assistance.

Job were lost in trade, transportation and warehousing and financial activities. Those losses reflect the worries on Wall Street about trade.

4. Employers laid off 35 percent fewer people than in January, a month of post-holiday cuts. February’s layoffs were about the same as February 2015.

5. But hey, it can be a mistake to get hung up on a single month. So have a look at the longer arc of the economy, which is also encouraging. During the past year, metro Atlanta has added 72,500 jobs. That growth represents most of the jobs added in Georgia.

6. The unemployment rate only counts the labor force – people who are either working or looking for work. And the labor force has been growing.

That number plunged during and after the recession – so the job market was even worse than the unemployment rate indicated. But now, with the labor force number rising, that seems to mean that the hiring situation is better than then unemployment rate suggests.

And the labor force has finally grown enough to reach and surpass the 2008 peak.

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