Weak job growth in metro Atlanta last month

There weren’t a slew of layoffs last month, but hiring was pretty weak, according to the Labor Department. (AP file photo)
There weren’t a slew of layoffs last month, but hiring was pretty weak, according to the Labor Department. (AP file photo)

Metro Atlanta saw weak job growth in April, although the unemployment rate dropped as thousands of people stopped looking for work, according to a report Thursday from the state department of labor.

Although April is typically a strong month for hiring, the economy added just 8,100 jobs – less than half the average growth during the previous five Aprils. It is the worst growth for the month since 2009.

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The economy does face some headwinds that are slowing growth, said Brian Peters, regional executive in Atlanta for the southeast for Citizens Bank.

The Federal Reserve has raised benchmark interest rates, which are used to calculate many kinds of loans, and usually nudge mortgage costs higher, he said. "Interest rates affect all of us. And it has a direct impact into the housing market. It is starting to have an impact on buyers' psychology. People and companies are really starting to pay attention."

So far, it hasn't been enough of a hike to chill lending, he said.

Unless something dramatic and unexpected happens, the economy should keep growing, he said. "I worry more about some kind of shock to the system."

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said in a statement that he is taking the longer view, since the state has added 41,000 jobs during the past year – most of them in metro Atlanta.

“Even though we did see some fluctuations in the employment and workforce numbers across the state, job growth continues to be very strong,” Butler said.

However, job growth this past year was weaker than the previous five years.

Most of the jobs added in April were in leisure and hospitality, where jobs generally do not pay well. The corporate sector, which has the best-paying positions, lost jobs during the month.

Construction, considered a sector for good blue-collar jobs, was up slightly, as well.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent – about one-third of its rate in the wake of the 2007-09 recession and the lowest it has been in metro Atlanta since July of 2001.

But the report was confirmation of something said by Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Georgia State Economic Forecasting Center during the center's quarterly conference Wednesday: "Thou shalt not use the unemployment rate to figure out how tight the labor market is."

That is because the unemployment rate counts only people in the labor market – either working or actively searching for a position. Those who are not looking are not counted.

During April, the metro Atlanta labor force shrank by about 21,000 people, according to the Georgia Labor Department.

Metro Atlanta unemployment rate in April:

Now: 3.6 percent

Highest: 9.7 percent (2010)

Lowest: 2.6 percent (2000)

Source: Georgia Department of Labor

Job growth, metro Atlanta:

April, 2018: 8,100 jobs

Average April, 2013-17: 18,500 jobs

Best April: 30,700 jobs (2005)

Worst April: -6,300 jobs (2009)

Source: Georgia Department of Labor

Jobs added, previous 12 months, metro Atlanta:

April, 2018: 41,300

April, 2017: 61,500

April, 2016: 90,800

April, 2015: 75,700

April, 2014: 82,100

April, 2013: 51,500

Source: Georgia Department of Labor

Atlanta job growth, past 12 months:

Construction: 5.8 percent

Education and health: 3.9 percent

Leisure and hospitality: 3.2 percent

Government: 1.3 percent

Corporate: -0.5 percent

All jobs: 1.5 percent

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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