It may sound like bad news that metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate rose at the start of the year, but the reasons were positive.
The official unemployment rate climbed to 3.3% in January from 2.8% in December, the state Department of Labor announced Thursday. But that’s because nearly 21,000 people joined the area’s labor force.
The region posted one of its strongest Januarys on record, which helps explain the department’s glowing report last week on the state economy. Georgia added 19,400 jobs. More than 60% of the jobs in the state are in metro Atlanta.
Typically, thousands of positions — those created to handle the holiday rush for retail and delivery companies — are eliminated in January. The state’s data is adjusted to take into account seasonal trends. Metro Atlanta’s numbers are not.
During an average pre-pandemic January, the area loses roughly 47,500 jobs. This year, the economy shrank by just 22,200 jobs.
That means the upshot of the Atlanta report is upbeat, said Mark Butler, Georgia’s commissioner of labor.
The odds are good that, if January’s wannabe workers haven’t been hired yet, they will be soon, he said. There are currently more than 95,000 job openings listed for the metro area.
“We continue to see Georgia’s workforce be successfully employed in record-breaking numbers,” Butler said.
In January, the most growth was in the corporate and tech jobs.
Uncertainty still clouds the economy’s path. The nation was already facing inflation, which has been accelerated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
That’s prompted more people to look for additional, part-time work, said Monica Plaza, chief strategy officer of Wonolo, a staffing company that connects workers to job openings. “Folks are seeking to pick up some extra work, in a gig way,” she said.
And the virulent and unpredictable coronavirus is still out there. But, in the 21 months since the pandemic-triggered shutdowns threw hundreds of thousands of people out of work, the Atlanta economy has expanded by 415,000 jobs.
About 112,300 were added during the last six months of 2021. Atlanta now has 25,600 more jobs than it had at the pre-pandemic peak.
Georgia has been among the leaders in the U.S. in the rate of hiring, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Since January, the fastest hiring has been in service and retail jobs, according to Wonolo.
The report on January jobs was delayed by the annual update of government statistics. February’s report on jobs is expected in two weeks.
Metro Atlanta job market
Unemployment rate, January: 3.3% (up from 2.8%)
Labor force, January: up 20,719
Employed people, January: up 5,992
Unemployed, January: up 14,727
Metro Atlanta jobs
January 2022: down 22,200
Average pre-pandemic January: down 47,500
Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
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