Metro Atlanta job growth is modest in April

With workers for some jobs in short supply, many employers are hiring immigrants, disabled people, minorities, and people who have been incarcerated.
Mirwais Jalali, a recruiter for aviation contractor Unifi, gives new employees a tour of the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta in April. To expand the candidate pool, some employers are hiring immigrants, people with disabilities, formerly incarcerated people and veterans,  (Arvin Temkar /



Mirwais Jalali, a recruiter for aviation contractor Unifi, gives new employees a tour of the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta in April. To expand the candidate pool, some employers are hiring immigrants, people with disabilities, formerly incarcerated people and veterans, (Arvin Temkar /

With interest rates still high and the number of available workers dipping, metro Atlanta still added 7,700 jobs last month, slightly weaker-than-usual growth for April, but still a solid labor market, the state Department of Labor said Thursday. Hiring was strongest in white collar professional and administrative jobs, healthcare, finance and manufacturing.

The unemployment rate for the region dropped to 2.8% from 3.1% in March, said Bruce Thompson, the state’s labor commissioner, who praised the economic climate. “Georgia is focused on creating an environment where businesses can thrive, and everyday workers can find good jobs and build better lives,” he said.

April’s hiring was a little less energetic than usual, compared with metro Atlanta’s pre-pandemic average of 10,040 jobs for the month. But weaker-than-usual doesn’t mean weak.

The labor market in metro Atlanta remains favorable for jobseekers — one clue is in paychecks. When workers are in demand, employers pay more to snag and retain them. This spring, average pay is rising — not as fast as two years ago, but still higher than inflation, according to the Atlanta Federal Reserve.

The region’s unemployment rate was lower than its best pre-pandemic level. April’s jobless rate represents the 34th consecutive month below 4%. The state’s jobless rate is 3.1% and the national rate is 3.9%.

About 93,000 people in metro Atlanta are officially unemployed — that is, out of work and actively seeking a job, according to the state Department of Labor. That compares to about 180,000 a decade ago when the area’s population was much smaller.

One reason for that is the lagging share of people in the workforce.

Pre-pandemic, 63.1% of working-age people were in the Georgia workforce. Now, it’s 61.5%. In metro Atlanta population, that translates to a difference of roughly 65,000 potential workers.

A decade ago, many jobseekers spent months finding work. Now, with the shallower pool of job-seekers, qualified candidates are often not on the market very long — even if they need some polishing first.

Danny McClure, 67, came out of the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1980s and held a variety of jobs before falling on hard times, losing a job and spending some time without a home. Last year, he enrolled in a program at the Veterans Administration in Decatur aimed at helping vets land steady jobs.

He also got help from Hire Heroes USA, an Alpharetta-based group that offers veterans guidance with resumes and interviewing. “I had a resume that was OK, but they helped me write a resume that got the attention I needed to get an interview,” McClure said. “I left the program April 30, and I found a job the very next week.”

He’s now a security guard at a luxury, high-rise building in Buckhead.

About 225 veterans are currently in the same VA program, according to Chanel Cook, a spokeswoman for the VA.

With workers for some jobs in short supply, many employers have hired people they might have ignored in the past — immigrants, people with disabilities, minorities, people who’ve been incarcerated. Programs like the VA’s add to the candidate pool.

Hire Heroes USA, an Alpharetta-based organization, counsels and helps military veterans and spouses in the search for jobs. The group last year placed 14,000 people, said Ross Dickman, the chief executive.

That assistance can be critical: While the unemployment rate for veterans is typically lower than the national average, many vets are not even looking. Fewer than half of working-age vets are in the labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Having successful and purposeful employment after leaving the service is the most important predictive factor in their after-service life,” he said.

A jobs fair for veterans and their spouses is planned for May 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Georgia International Convention Center. The even is hosted by Disabled American Veterans and RecruitMilitary.

A year ago, economists were predicting recession. Inflation was taking a bite out of pocketbooks and the Federal Reserve’s campaign to tame it had dramatically raised the cost of business and consumer borrowing by lifting interest rates to two-decade highs.

Inflation has fallen, but not quite as far as the Fed wants, so the rates are still high.

The economy has proved surprisingly resilient, but expansion has decelerated and hiring has moderated. The pace of growth in the region has been about 1.3% for the past year, compared to slightly faster national growth — about a 1.8% rate.

Jobless claims during the month were up modestly, which can be a hint of trouble — but only when laid-off workers can’t find another position and so far, the hiring has continued.

However, there are also announcements of layoffs that won’t be tallied in coming months, workers who aren’t looking yet, as various companies file plans for cuts.

Swissport Cargo Services is laying off 235 workers from its Atlanta location, starting this week, according to a filing with state officials. Wellpath, a for-profit provider of medical services to prisoners, plans to cut 135 jobs in Newnan at the end of June. Future Forwarding, a logistics and transportation company, will cut 78 Atlanta workers in August.

Metro Atlanta job change, April

Best, pre-pandemic: 30,500 (2005)

Worst, pre-pandemic: -6,600 (2009)

Average, pre-pandemic: 10,040

Recent: 7,700 (2024)

Metro Atlanta unemployment rate, April

Best, pre-pandemic: 2.9% (1999, 2000)

Best, overall: 2.5% (2022)

Worst, pre-pandemic: 10.0% (2010)

Worst, overall: 12.3 (2020)

Average, pre-pandemic: 5.5%

Recent: 2.8% (April 2024)

Change in metro Atlanta labor force

Best: 4,250 (2016)

Worst: -23,233 (2014)

Average: -8,905

Recent: -16,791 (April 2024)

Number in metro Atlanta jobless and actively searching

Highest, pre-pandemic: 303,986 (June 2009)

Pre-pandemic: 107,453 (Feb. 2020)

Year ago: 102,004 (April 2023)

Recent: 92,930 (April 2024)

Metro Atlanta’s share of jobs in Georgia

High: 63.4% (July 2023)

Low: 53.3% (May 1990)

Recent: 62.0% (April 2024)

National jobless rate by veteran status

Women veterans: 3.1%,

Women nonveterans: 3.5%,

Male veterans: 3.0%,

Male nonveterans: 3.8%.

Share of working-age adults in labor force, avg. 2023

Veterans: 48.2%

Veterans, men: 47.2%

Veterans, women: 56.5%

Overall, U.S.: 62.6%

Georgia: 61.6%

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Veterans Administration, Hire Heroes USA