After a slow start to the year, Georgia’s economy perked up in March as 21,800 jobs were added across a broad swath of sectors, state officials said Thursday.
Fueled by an e-commerce boom, the hiring has been especially strong in logistics and manufacturing. But Georgia also added jobs last month in the corporate sector, construction and health care. Even the state’s hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector saw a bit more hiring, according to the state Department of Labor.
“We are seeing a huge surge in job opportunities,” said Sara Kirby, Atlanta area director for the staffing firm Randstad. “I don’t see things slowing down.”
The jobless rate dropped to 4.5% from 4.8% in February. That’s higher than the pre-pandemic level, but far below the double-digit rates of a year ago.
While the economy still has about 180,500 fewer jobs than before the pandemic began, 223,000 positions are listed on the state’s jobs site — triple the number of a year ago, said state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.
Still, the state processed 38,382 new jobless claims last week, up 4,759 from the previous week, he said.
Nationally, the number of initial claims fell.
Accommodation and food services accounted for about one-third of the new claims in Georgia, where more than 4.6 million claims have been processed since the pandemic’s start.
With more and more people getting vaccinated, “economic activity should pick up over the course of 2021,” said Abbey Omodunbi, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group.
But, for right now, many still face challenges.
Marquist Rhodes, 43, made his living as a full-time Lyft driver until the pandemic. He still drives some days, but the pickings are slim. He depends on unemployment benefits to pay his family’s rent.
He’s optimistic that riders will come back to Lyft soon. “I think it’s still going to take having more people trust enough to get out there,” he said.
Economists agree: Attitude is crucial to recovery. The health of the economy is dependent on people feeling that the spread of the virus is contained.
When all schools are reopened, many parents will be free to take jobs that require them to be in offices and shops, said Daniel Zhao, senior economist for Glassdoor, a jobs listing, ratings and research site. And, as more people are vaccinated, more consumers will venture out.
“The most important economic stimulus is getting the pandemic under control,” Zhao said.
Unemployment rate, Georgia
Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics