Metro Atlanta posts strong job growth in November

Healthcare added more jobs than any other sector in November, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. Here, recruiters talking to potential employees during a job fair at Jackson Healthcare's Alpharetta offices. (Michael Blackshire/Michael.blackshire@ajc.com)

Credit: Michael Blackshire

Credit: Michael Blackshire

Healthcare added more jobs than any other sector in November, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. Here, recruiters talking to potential employees during a job fair at Jackson Healthcare's Alpharetta offices. (Michael Blackshire/Michael.blackshire@ajc.com)

On the strength of surprisingly strong holiday hiring, metro Atlanta’s jobless rate dropped in November, the state Department of Labor said Thursday.

The region’s economy added 26,000 jobs during the month, nearly twice as many as the pre-pandemic average for November. About half the expansion is accounted for by the retail and hospitality sectors, including jobs that serve shoppers, deliveries, out-of-the-home dining, entertainment and travelers passing through the area.

During the month, the jobless rate fell to 3.1% from 3.4% in October, paralleling improvement across the state, said Bruce Thompson, Georgia commissioner of labor. “Georgia’s unemployment rates are dropping faster than holiday deals.”

While defying pessimists, metro Atlanta this year has demonstrated its economic muscle.

The region is a draw for out-of-state transplants, a convention center for business visitors, a hub for tens of millions of travelers by air and highway and the home to a range of companies. In November, metro Atlanta hiring accounted for roughly three of every four jobs added in the state, according to the Department of Labor.

The official unemployment rate counts only those actively seeking work, so it sometimes drops when discouraged job seekers simply stop looking and leave the labor force. But in November, the jobless rate dipped even though the number of people in the labor force grew, a sign that most of those seeking jobs got hired.

Growth in the labor force is also generally seen as a sign of optimism among workers who had been on the sidelines, and over the past 12 months, the labor force has increased by 86,035. That optimism only slightly outpaced the solid growth in hiring. In that time, the region added 76,500 jobs, according to the Department of Labor.

During the year, health care and social assistance has accounted for the most new jobs, with hospitality a close second, the department said.

Coming into 2023, the majority of economists had been predicting a recession, figuring that the persistent bite of inflation, combined with the Federal Reserve’s campaign of rate hikes, would temper both company expansion and consumer spending. And in the year’s early months, there were indeed cuts in tech companies and several high-profile bank failures.

But inflation largely abated and households kept spending — albeit often using savings or credit cards to do so — and the economy kept growing. Metro Atlanta lost jobs in January and July, months in which it typically sheds positions, but added jobs in every other month, besting its pre-pandemic average in five of them.

Atlanta’s job base has expanded by 2.47% during the past 12 months, faster than the state’s pace of 2.14% and much better than the national growth rate of 1.81%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Atlanta also boasts the lower unemployment rate: 3.1%. Georgia’s is 3.4%, the national rate is 3.7%.

Still, even in an expanding economy, not all sectors and not all companies prosper equally.

During November, FAB Precision Sheetmetal announced 50 layoffs in its Fairburn facility, Standard Delivery filed plans to cut 90 positions in Atlanta and VMware said it was slashing 217 jobs in the area. At the start of December, Matheson Flight Extenders reported plans to cut 46 jobs in College Park.

And this week, Truist Bank confirmed that it is closing eight branches in Georgia, six of them in metro Atlanta. The huge, Charlotte-based institution did not provide more information about the future of the people working in those branches.

In November, there were 110,240 people in the region who were jobless and actively seeking employment. That is higher than before the start of the pandemic in 2019, but the number of people in the workforce has also grown.

The region in November had a labor force of 3,272,188, up 139,000 during the past four years.


Metro Atlanta, November job growth

Best, pre-pandemic: 23,500 (2014)

Worst, pre-pandemic: -6,400 (2008)

Average, pre-pandemic: 14,100

Recent: 26,000 (2023)

Atlanta, share of state jobs: 76.2%

Strongest sectors: Retail, accommodation and food services, administrative and support services.

Metro Atlanta job growth, Jan. to November

Best, pre-pandemic: 95,800 (2014)

Worst, pre-pandemic: -116,000 (2009)

Average, pre-pandemic: 37,500

Recent: 74,900 (2023)

Metro Atlanta, Nov. unemployment rate

Best, pre-pandemic: 2.6% (2000)

Worst, pre-pandemic: 10.6% (2009)

Average, pre-pandemic: 5.2%

Recent: 3.1% (2023)

Metro Atlanta, pace of annual growth

Best, pre-pandemic: 5.5% (1993)

Worst, pre-pandemic: -5.3% (2009)

Average, pre-pandemic: 2.0%

Recent: 2.5% (2023)

Number of unemployed, unemployment rate

Nov. 2019: 92,060 (2.9%)

Nov. 2020: 161,552 (5.2%)

Nov. 2021: 91,234 (2.8%)

Nov. 2022: 85,254 (2.7%)

Nov. 2023: 110,240 (3.1%)

*Job numbers for Atlanta not adjusted to account for seasonal patterns

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

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