Metro Atlanta has second-best June on record, adds 20,600 jobs

Downtown Atlanta. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division has issued a Code Orange Air Quality Alert for Atlanta. Miguel Martinez / Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

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Downtown Atlanta. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division has issued a Code Orange Air Quality Alert for Atlanta. Miguel Martinez / Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Inflation has been high, interest rates are rising and recession talk is rampant, but the metro Atlanta economy had its second-best June on record, state officials said Thursday.

The region added 20,600 jobs last month, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner, said the state’s pro-business attitudes and policies have helped businesses navigate the past few years “to pay off with record-setting job reports.”

Last month’s growth compares to an average loss of 3,200 jobs in the same month pre-pandemic. Only the month before the 1996 Olympics, when Atlanta added more than 23,000 jobs, was a better June for job growth.

The Federal Reserve has been trying to tame inflation by raising short-term interest rates, hoping that making it more expensive to borrow money will slow investment, expansion and demand for goods and services.

But it hasn’t tanked the economy, at least not in Atlanta, said Chris Arnone, partner at Atlanta-based accounting consultancy Moore Colson.

“Interest rates are up, but they are still historically low,” Arnone said. “Companies are still looking for talent. Customer demand is still there. “What we are seeing is a lot of hiring.”

The metro Atlanta unemployment rate in June was 3.4%, rising from 2.6% in May. That increase is typical of June, a result of schools closing, factories taking breaks and many executives leaving town for vacations.

Unlike the statewide jobless rate, rates for the metro region are not adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations, said Butler. “The increase in local rates is typical for summer.”

During the month, the largest job gains came in accommodation and food services, he said.

However, a broad range of sectors saw businesses hiring, including corporate and tech jobs, finance, transportation, warehousing and entertainment.

“It is a candidates’ market,” said Kim Wallace, Duluth-based president of staffing company EmployBridge. “If you are a good candidate, companies are going to want you and they are going to pay you more to get you.”

Still, a month from now, the data may not look as rosy.

Signs of caution are evident in the increased use of temporary workers, said Monica Plaza, chief strategy officer for Wonolo, an online job site for many “gig” positions, like those in warehouses.

“There’s a fear of recession so some businesses are being very conservative with their labor strategies,” she said.

Initial jobless claims, while nowhere near the stratospheric levels early in the pandemic, have ticked up, according to the Department of Labor. Pre-pandemic, claims were typically 5,000 a week or fewer. In May this year, they averaged 3,915 a week.

For the past four weeks, claims have average 6,087, including last week when 8,266 were filed.

With the gross domestic product declining by 0.9% during the past quarter according to a preliminary government report, few economists say the nation is in recession — yet. But consumers and companies are sensitive to the speculation about a downturn, and even more attuned to the rise of grocery and gas prices.

“It is clear that the economy is decelerating,” said Angelo Kourkafas, investment strategist for Edward Jones. “We are not in a recession, but a recession toward the end of this year and early 2023 are more of a risk.”


Metro Atlanta unemployment rate

Highest, pre-pandemic: 10.9% (Jan. 2010)

Lowest, pre-pandemic: 2.6% (Dec. 2000)

Recent: 3.4% (June 2022)

Metro Atlanta unemployment rate, June

Change from May: +0.6 percentage points

Average change from May, pre-pandemic: +0.5 percentage points

Metro Atlanta job growth, June

Highest, pre-pandemic: 23,100 (1996)

Lowest, pre-pandemic: -18,100 (2009)

Recent: 20,600 (2022)

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics