Sounding smart about jobs: A magnificent seven things to know today

The Georgia economy is still adding jobs, but the pace of growth is decelerating, the Labor Department said.

The Georgia economy is still adding jobs, but the pace of growth is decelerating, the Labor Department said.

Georgia's unemployment rate edged up to 5.2 percent in October from 5.1 percent in September as hiring couldn't keep up with the flow of new jobseekers, state labor department said today.

However, the higher jobless rate was not the result of layoffs – in fact, the state added 6,700 jobs during the month. The rate rose because a flurry of people entered the workforce, more than could be soaked up by the modest hiring.

It is about the math: the unemployment rate is calculated by looking at the number of people who either have jobs or are actively looking. So it can go up when people who’ve been discouraged flock back from the sidelines into the hunt for a paycheck.

"Since some new jobseekers won't land a job immediately, they are counted as unemployed," said Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner. "But our employers continue to add jobs, so there are a lot of good opportunities to work."

The department said 27,795 more people came into the labor force during the month, and 21,000 of them found work. Since the beginning of the year, the labor force has surged by 161,527 – generally a sign that people who have been on the sidelines are encouraged by what they see of hiring to think it's worth another try.

Few experts say that that the economy is reaching full employment. But some do argue that, despite the number of people still unemployed, employers are running out of some important skills.

"There isn't a lot of slack in the system," said Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State.

And Linda Brenner, managing director of Atlanta-based Talent Growth Advisors said the technical ambitions of many companies are outpacing the supply of talent in Atlanta.

“I think the numbers don’t play out,” she said. “Some companies have relations with Georgia Tech, but there just aren’t enough Tech grads who want to stay in Midtown Atlanta.”

The plans of a number of companies – from Anthem to NCR – call for new, tech centers in Atlanta. Those firms are looking for topo-notch developers, other engineers and digital marketeers, as well as experts in “big data” and cyber-security.

“The talent just doesn’t exist top staff the volume and the nuance of the need,” Brenner said. “Our economy is powered by knowledge now and talent is scarce. If I’m looking for a sales rep, there are tons of them. If I am looking for a senior director for I.T. development, I could post the job and be dead before one applies.”

And yet, even if the competition for specialized skills is heating up, the overall pace of new hiring has slowed.

Growth in October was modest — far slower than during the same month a year ago. And while the economy has added 97,100 jobs in the past 12 months, that is nowhere near as strong as the year before.

Another concern: if the incoming Trump administration follows through on its campaign rhetoric, will it touch off a prolonged trade war?

Several crucial sectors depend on trade – selling goods, buying goods or moving goods. They include some globally recognized names like Home Depot and Coca-Cola, but also many small manufacturers and importers. And Delta Air Lines – a company critical to Atlanta – is dependent on international business.

Earlier this week, Dhawan projected a deceleration of Georgia's economy largely on concerns about trade.

More imminently, there is the question of holiday hiring. While often low-paying and frequently temporary, holiday hiring puts money in many workers’ pockets when it is badly needed. Last year, the end-of-the-year retail and entertainment rush sparked a wave of new jobs.

What about 2016? That will become clearer in coming weeks.

In the meantime, here are six ways to sound smart in talking about Georgia’s jobless rate:

1. The rate now. Georgia unemployment rate has come down from 5.5 percent in October of last year – mostly on the strength of job creation.

2. Relentless math. The jobless rate hasn't fallen far because so many people have entered the labor force looking for work.

3. Perspective. At its post-recession worst, the Georgia jobless rate was 10.5 percent. Before the recession it was under 5.0 percent. The very lowest rate on record was in November of 2000: 3.4 percent.

4. Relatively speaking. Georgia's rate is above the national rate of 4.9 percent. It hasn't been below the U.S. rate since 2007, before the economy slipped into recession.

5. Still hurting. Despite the improvement, there are still more than a quarter-million Georgians unemployed and looking for a job.

That is far lower than it was during the worst of the jobs crisis. But a historically high share of the unemployed have been looking for more than six months. And anyone not actively looking for work is not officially counted as unemployed. (Yes, it’s that math thing, again.)

6. Historically. It was a weaker than average October for job growth, at least compared to the five previous years. From September to October, the number of jobs in the state grew 6,700. The average October during the previous five years saw growth of 11,300 jobs.

7. Sectors strong, sectors weak. The sectors adding the most employees were professional and business services – that is, the corporate sector – financial services, information and healthcare.

A loser for the month was leisure and hospitality.


Ten years of Octobers

2006 …….. 18,000

2007 …….. -400

2008 …….. -22,600

2009 …….. -1,900

2010 …….. 11,000

2011 …….. -7,600

2012 …….. 15,200

2013 …….. 12,100

2014 …….. 8,400

2015 …….. 28,500

2016 …….. 6,700

Atlanta: how many jobs gained (or lost) in past 12 months?

2006 ……… 81,200

2007 ……… 32,900

2008 ……… -92,600

2009 ……… -221,600

2010 ……… 20,200

2011 ……… 36,000

2012 ……… 61,900

2013 ……… 85,800

2014 ……… 124,600

2015 ……… 131,300

2016 ……… 97,100

Source: Georgia Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics