Metro Atlanta job growth strong, unemployment rate at record low

Health care has been among the sectors with the strongest hiring, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. Nurses are in demand.
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Health care has been among the sectors with the strongest hiring, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. Nurses are in demand.

Georgia’s latest weekly jobless claims fall to two-year low

The metro Atlanta economy added 40,700 jobs last month, three times the typical pre-pandemic growth, the government reported Thursday.

With the economy steadily regaining its pre-pandemic traction, holiday spending strong and travel rebounding, the hiring was energetic in a range of sectors during October, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

Moreover, September’s data was revised to show even stronger growth in Atlanta than previously thought.

The unemployment rate, which had already dropped to an all-time low of 2.5% in September, dipped in October to 2.4%.

And critically — since the headline unemployment rate only includes people looking for work — that rate decreased while the pool of jobseekers grew, said Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “We are continuing to see all-time low unemployment rates across the state while also seeing job growth.”

Metro Atlanta’s labor force, which includes all those with jobs or looking for one, is 25,000 smaller than it was before the pandemic. But it increased in October by 15,425. And the number of unemployed — that is, those actively looking for work — fell to its lowest level since May 2001, Butler said.

Nationally, jobless claims last week fell to their lowest level in decades, according to the Employment and Training Administration. In Georgia, claims fell to 4,249 during the week — the lowest level statewide since late 2019, said the DOL.

Metro Atlanta’s most-common job openings have been in seasonally affected sectors like logistics where warehouse and material movers are needed, but there is also intense demand in health care, said Sue Arthur, chief executive of employment website CareerBuilder. “Registered nurses are one of the most in-demand jobs in the metro Atlanta area.”

Last month, health care added 8,300 jobs in the region.

The region’s recovery from the massive job losses in the early weeks of the pandemic is still not complete. Metro Atlanta’s economy has added back 353,500 jobs, but remains 28,000 jobs shy of its level in February 2020.

If history is a guide, the recovery will continue.

In Novembers past, the jobless rate has typically dropped and jobs have been added as retailers and logistics companies go full-tilt handling holiday orders and shipping. In the five years before the pandemic, November averaged growth of 20,120 jobs.

But there are often fewer jobseekers than openings. Among positions where employers are struggling to find enough candidates, “health care, food prep and education ... have some of the lowest job seeker-to-opening ratios,” said CareerBuilder’s Arthur.

Many workers have kept to the sidelines, deterred by virus fears, child care needs, a desire for free time or a thirst for higher wages, she said. “People have many different reasons for not working right now.”

Metro Atlanta, often seen as the engine of Georgia’s economy, in pre-pandemic years typically accounted for more than 70% of the state’s job growth. But COVID-19 badly damaged the hospitality and travel sectors, and metro Atlanta’s recovery — while robust — has been slower than the rest of Georgia’s.

During 2021, metro Atlanta has accounted for 63% of the 155,800 jobs added across the state.

Recent metro Atlanta job growth

June: 31,400

July: 14,600

August: 2,200

September: 6,200

October: 40,700

Metro Atlanta job growth, October

2016: 13,800

2017: 25,600

2018: 20,100

2019: 19,000

2020: 29,100

2021: 40,700

Average, pre-pandemic: 13,400

Metro Atlanta unemployment rate

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

Highest pre-pandemic: 11.1% (June 2009)

October, 2020: 5.8%

October, 2021: 2.4%

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor

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