In the past year, Georgia has added nearly 200,000 jobs and is now just 16,500 shy of its level in February 2020, before several months of massive job losses during COVID-triggered shutdowns.
After nearly two years of the pandemic, concern continues to overlay the economy, said Glenn Williams, chief executive of Primerica, a Duluth-based, multi-billion dollar financial services provider.
While most consumers are optimistic, a recent Primerica survey showed 82% of national respondents expected the virus to continue mutating and spreading, he said. “It is dominating our lives and there is not a clear resolution.”
The virus nudged some people to retire early and has convinced others not to work. Many companies have complained of being unable to find the people they need. Georgia’s labor force — people either working or looking for work — is 23,542 smaller than it was before the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That leaves fewer workers responding to job openings.
The pandemic also has changed the nature of some jobs, making remote work much more common. At the same time, persistent fear about the virus has been a challenge to industries that depend on in-person transactions, such as hospitality.
Yet most sectors have kept expanding.
“The variants, including omicron, appear to have a very limited effect on the hiring demands of most businesses out there,” said Bert Bean, chief executive of Insight Global, an Atlanta-based staffing company with 63 offices around the country. “Demand has never been hotter.”
Georgia’s job picture, December
Jobs: up 24,200
Labor force: up 3,701
Unemployment* rate: down by 0.2 percentage points
Number of unemployed*: down 10,325
Historical context, Georgia economy
Unemployment rate, recent: 2.6% (Dec. 2021)
Unemployment rate, highest during pandemic: 12.5% (April 2020)
Unemployment rate, pre-pandemic: 3.5% (Feb. 2020)
Unemployment rate, lowest pre-pandemic: 3.4% (Nov. 2000)
Job growth, recent: 24,200 (Dec. 2021)
Average December job growth, pre-pandemic: 3,430
*Unemployment calculations count only those actively seeking work
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia Department of Labor