State job growth strong, but the pace slowed in August

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Georgia added 15,800 jobs last month, the best non-pandemic August since 2005

Georgia job growth was strong again last month, racking up one of the best Augusts on record -- but with higher interest rates rattling the housing and stock markets, the pace of expansion has slowed.

The state added 15,800 positions during the month, the best non-pandemic August since 2005. The Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday the unemployment rate remains perched at a historically low 2.8%, with hundreds of thousands of job openings still listed and unfilled.

Hiring during the month was strong in education, office jobs, specialty trades, local government and manufacturing, while the state jobs site lists more than 220,000 jobs, said Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner.

To fill about 1,900 of them, the state is holding an online career fair in metro Atlanta on Sept. 29, he said.

Georgia has added 153,200 jobs since December, when the Federal Reserve started its campaign to raise interest rates incrementally to slow the economy as a way to tame inflation. Yet the amount of hiring is down more than one-third from late winter.

Not that a downturn has begun. So far this year, the scramble to find and retain workers has meant robust raises for many, said Daniel Altman, chief economist for Instawork, which places workers in flexible jobs. “And when hours go up, that means the labor market is getting looser rather than tighter,” he said.

Not that a downturn has begun. So far this year, the scramble to find and retain workers has meant robust raises for many.

Mercedes-Benz USA moved its North American headquarters to Sandy Springs from New Jersey in 2016, in part to find talented workers, said Dimitris Psillakis, chief executive.

Many corporate white-collar positions, such as data analysts, are in high demand, he said. “It is getting more expensive. But we are adjusting.”

In addition to higher pay, the company touts its benefits package, its posh headquarters and its well-known brand.

Competition for workers has also spurred an unprecedented flurry of job-switching, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And more than one-quarter of those who have switched jobs in the past year have switched more than three times, according to a national survey by Resume Builder, which offers career advice online.

Most of them say they received higher pay at their new job, said the company.

The average pay hike for job-switchers has been running at about 8.5%, according to the Atlanta Federal Reserve. Workers who stay in the same job have also been getting better pay, averaging a raise of 5.9%.

But Altman said that tendency may have peaked. Employers were aggressively giving raises late last year in an effort to find and retain workers. Lately, however, they have been less eager to dangle extra money, he said.

Higher short-term interest rates ripple through the economy, making borrowing more costly for companies and consumers, and — when the Fed raises rates high enough — it usually means cutbacks on spending and hiring.

In the past 10 months, the Fed has ratcheted its benchmark rates from near zero almost up to their pre-pandemic level of 1.55 %. Those hikes quickly rattled the housing market and spooked Wall Street, but they’ve been slower to have an impact on hiring, said Stephen Juneau, senior U.S. economist for Bank of America.

Many consumers padded savings and trimmed debt in the past few years, aided by government stimulus, but also because the pandemic hindered their spending options. Soaring home prices and a booming stock market also bolstered finances.

“That whole cocktail allowed people to maintain their consumption,” Juneau said. “But there’s going to be a point where people have to pull back.”

When they do, that will undermine demand for workers and likely lead to layoffs, he said. “We are predicting a mild recession next year.”

In the meantime, there will be the usual burst of hiring during the holiday season, as retailers and logistics companies gear up for deliveries and sales, according to Deloitte. The global consulting company predicts holiday spending will grow up to 6% this year, with online sales surging at more than twice that pace.

Sandy Springs-based UPS, which carries millions of packages at the holidays, is hiring more than 100,000 workers for the season, including about 2,300 in metro Atlanta. The company has boosted its pay for seasonal workers, with wages starting at $16 an hour, up from $15 last year for package handlers.

The number of unemployed Georgians — those without a job and searching for work — fell in August to its lowest level since early 2001. But low unemployment was partly due to a decline in the number of people in the workforce, down for two consecutive months.

With a larger share of Georgians past retirement age, demographics may be partly responsible for the shrinking workforce, Juneau said.

Georgia job market

Change in number of jobs, Georgia

Sept 2021 5,800

Oct 2021 30,500

Nov 2021 17,100

Dec 2021 23,300

Jan 2022 25,000

Feb 2022 28,600

Mar 2022 18,200

Apr 2022 17,800

May 2022 19,400

Jun 2022 15,900

July 2022 12,500

August 2022 15,800


Change in number of workers, Georgia

Sept 2021: 4,100

Oct 2021: 6,000

Nov 2021: 230

Dec 2021: -1,500

Jan 2022: 16,800

Feb 2022: 19,000

March 2022: 16,500

April 2022: 16,500

May 2022: 14,100

June 2022: 7,700

July 2022: -3,900


Unemployment Rate

Lowest pre-pandemic: 3.4% (Nov. 2019, Dec. 2000)

Highest pre-pandemic: 10.9% (Nov. 2009)

Recent: 2.8% (August 2022)


Job growth, August

High pre-pandemic: 22,400 (1995)

High pre-pandemic, post Olympics: 16,000 (Aug. 2005)

Average pre-pandemic: 4,000

Recent: 15,800 (2022)


Number of unemployed*

High pre-pandemic: 519,115 (Oct. 2009)

Low pre-pandemic: 120,179 (Sept. 1979)

Low, past 25 years: 143,260 (Nov. 2000)

Recent: 149,650 (August 2022)


*Out of work, actively seeking a job

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics