Job seekers line up to speak to recruiters during a job fair this fall. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Photo: LM Otero
Photo: LM Otero

Metro Atlanta hiring strong last month; jobless rate remains 2.9%

Metro Atlanta added 23,000 jobs last month, a stronger than average October, according to a report Thursday from the state’s Department of Labor.

Despite worries about the trade war with China and fears that America’s record-long economic expansion could be coming to an end, Atlanta’s growth engine has kept churning. So far in 2019, the region has added 39,600 jobs – more growth than in the previous two years.

And, even with more than 13,000 joining the metro Atlanta workforce last month, the unemployment rate held steady at a low 2.9%. That’s the lowest since the tail end of the tech and telecom boom in 2000, when the area’s jobless rate hit its all-time low of 2.6%.

A year ago, the jobless rate in Atlanta was 3.6%.

Most other Georgia metros also gained during October, according to Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner. “We increased jobs, employment and added to our labor force in virtually all of our major markets.”

Still, Atlanta has provided the lion’s share of the growth.

The region has added 59,200 jobs during the past year, more than three-quarters of new jobs in the state. The second-most gains came in Augusta, which added 3,000 jobs during the past year.

The last quarter is the most crucial for job growth, providing more than half the year’s total hiring in Atlanta, because of seasonal work in hospitality, retail and logistics.

Last year, the final three months of the year accounted for 37,200 jobs – 71% of the year’s total gain. Nationally, just 26% of the year’s hiring came in the last three months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Among companies ramping up seasonal hiring in metro Atlanta is Sandy Springs-based UPS, which has announced plans to add 100,000 workers to handle the tsunami of holiday packages.

The Seattle-based Amazon also has said it is adding about 100,000 workers nationally, including Georgia warehousing and distribution centers, for the holiday season.

Another huge logistics player is Delta Air Lines, which recently announced plans to hire 12,000 people, although the hiring is not pegged to the season.

Various “big box” retailers have also said they are hiring, including JC Penney, Macy’s and Kohl’s.

But, for hiring to sustain the economy and raise standards of living, it has to have a longer horizon.

Among those adding full-time employees are Northside Hospital and pharmaceutical distributor McKesson – part of a health-care sector with more than 313,600 workers in metro Atlanta, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

Atlanta-based Envistacom has been hiring “everything from electrical engineers to computer scientists to software developers,” as well as non-technical positions like recruiters, said Michael Geist, the company’s senior vice president.

The 8-year-old, 300-employee company has one client: the U.S. Defense Department. It provides services in satellite communications, cyber-security and intelligence operations.

Many of its workers are veterans hired for skills they learned in the military. “We expect to be close to 325 employees by the end of this year,” Geist said.

But, because of low unemployment, especially among tech workers, it’s harder to find qualified employees. “We are having to do more and more college recruiting to get the skill set that we are looking for,” he said.

Tech represents more than 291,000 jobs in Georgia, a majority of them in Atlanta, according to the Technology Association of Georgia.

Another addition to that was announced Thursday. Collibra, a New York and Brussels-based tech company, plans to locate an office and more than 200 jobs in Atlanta, according to an announcement by Gov. Brian Kemp.

The company, which manages cloud-based data, will be hiring for positions in sales, operations, support and marketing, the governor said.

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