Ga. unemployment rate drops

The unemployment rate in Georgia ticked down from 6.1 percent to 6 percent in July, reaching its lowest point in more than seven years, the state labor department announced Thursday.

Growth was modest during the month, up 4,600 jobs. But during the past year, the Georgia economy has added 89,400 jobs.

The numbers are a sign that finding work has grown easier – and the data gets a thumbs-up from Trinity Staples, 35.

Staples has been out of work just a few weeks after his contract position with a manufacturer in central Georgia came to an end. He interviewed with four companies and three of them made job offers.

He took a job as a cost inventory accountant with an Atlanta-area manufacturing company.

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“It seems like there’s been demand for what I do,” he said. “I didn’t even get out of Atlanta before they made me an offer.”

Roughly 80 percent of the jobs were created in metro Atlanta.

Job growth came from a range of sectors, although government pulled in both directions: local government added jobs, state government shed them.

A glance backward shows the arc of improvement: After five years of job growth, the unemployment rate has now fallen dramatically from a historical high of 10.5 percent.

Thursday’s report confirmed what he sees every day, said Andy Decker, Atlanta-based senior regional president for staffing company Robert Half. “We continue to see an increase in demand. The numbers line up with what I’ve been seeing.”

Still, the longer perspective highlights just how devastating the recession was in Georgia and how the vastly improved economy has not yet fully repaired the damage:

  • The state last month had 284,106 people officially unemployed – compared to 25,076 in December of 2007 as the recession was starting.
  • A historically high percentage of the unemployed – more than 40 percent – have been searching for a job more than six months.
  • While there are 82,100 more jobs now than before the recession, there are about 170,000 fewer people working – evidence that many jobs created have been low-wage or part-time positions and that many people are working more than one job.
  • The share of the population in the labor force has been shrinking. If the same proportion of people were working as in early 2008, the workforce would be more than a half-million larger.
  • Georgia’s jobless rate still hovers above the national rate of 5.3 percent. The state rate has not been below the national average since the fall of 2007.

But the current trajectory is good – and much of the hiring is being done by smaller companies.

Medovex, for instance, expects to grow from 13 employees to more than 30 in the next year, said Jarrett Gorlin, chief executive officer.

The Atlanta-based company, which is less than three years old, develops healthcare technologies and sells them to hospitals and other providers. The company, which went public last year, will need some technology experts, but most of the hires are likely to be sales and management executives, Gorlin said.

“There seem to be a lot of people out there looking.”

In an email survey of Atlanta residents, staffing company ExecuSource found that nearly half were looking for a job and 21 percent weren’t actively looking, but were interested in changing jobs.

ExecuSource itself has 17 employees, nearly double its size from a year ago, and plans to hire ten more by January, according to Frank Green, the company’s president.

That readiness to jump may be a sign that the job market has improved more than many employers realize, he said. “People want perks now such as flex time or bring-your-dog-to-work day. Places that are aggressively hiring, such as big tech companies in Atlanta, are partly so successful because they’ll do anything to get people.”

And while public officials often tout the shift of high-profile companies to Georgia, a lot of relocation happens without a government press release. For example, SkyMedicus Inc., an ambitious and growing company that arranges medical procedures overseas for Americans, recently moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles.

SkyMedicus, which has just a handful of employees here now, plans to hire 20 more within a year, said Amy Holcomb, company CEO.

Most new hires will be in administration, along with some “high end exec positions,” including financial experts and programmers.

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