A number of factors seem to have kept potential workers on the sidelines, including challenges of finding affordable child care, early retirement, a reliance on savings or a spouse’s income while hunting for a better position, and the effects of the coronavirus.
More than 20,000 Georgians have died from the virus, which also leaves many survivors with long-term medical problems. There have been nearly 1.3 million confirmed cases in the state.
When the pandemic started, metro Atlanta took a harder hit than the rest of the state, losing 382,000 jobs. That represented 65% of the state’s losses. Slightly more than half of Georgia’s population lives in the metro area.
As the economy came back, the rebound has been slightly slower than that of the state overall, with metro Atlanta still 70,900 jobs shy of its pre-pandemic level.
Still, the overall direction of the economy has been positive for more than a year since the worst of the COVID-triggered closures and job cuts, said Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner. “We are seeing all-time low unemployment rates throughout the state of Georgia reflecting an economy that is continuing to rapidly recover.”
Moreover, the region is entering the holiday season, which has historically been a period of robust hiring.
In nine of the 10 years before the pandemic, the last three months of the year accounted for more than half of the year’s hiring. That is largely because of the need for workers to handle, move, deliver and sell goods that Americans buy at the holidays.
Atlanta has in recent years been increasingly a hub for logistics — especially warehousing and transportation — that are crucial in the surging use of online ordering.
According to an annual Conference Board survey, U.S. consumers intend to spend an average of $648 on holiday gifts this year, not as much as 2019, but higher than any prior year.
In September, about 1,400 jobs were added in transportation and warehousing in Georgia, according to the Department of Labor. Other growing sectors included government, retail and wholesale.
Jobs were lost in health care and hospitality, both of which have struggled through the pandemic as consumers avoided in-person encounters and entertainment.
Metro Atlanta economy
Number of jobs added in September: 4,000
Average job change, pre-pandemic September: -3,100
Number of people entering workforce in September: 4,244
Average number entering workforce in September: 24,641
Unemployment* rate, September: 2.5%
Unemployment* rate, August: 3.1%
Change in unemployment rate from August: -0.6 percentage points
Average pre-pandemic change in September rate: -0.3 percentage points
Job growth, first quarter, 2021: -11,500
Job growth, second quarter, 2021: 46,100
Job growth, third quarter, 2021: 20,800
Average job growth, fourth quarter, pre-pandemic: 41,800
Metro Atlanta and the state
Number of jobs added since April, 2020
Metro Atlanta: 311,000
Number of jobs compared to Feb. 2020
Metro Atlanta: -70,900
Metro Atlanta’s share of state job growth
Since April, 2020: 61%
* The unemployment rate includes only people who are jobless but searching for work.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor