Georgia Sees Job Growth

April 18, 2011

By Dan Chapman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
April 19
Georgia’s jobless rate in March continued its decline from peak levels, notching a 10 percent rate that economists expect will return to single digits as 2011 rolls along.

The jobless rate was 10.2 percent in February and 10.4 percent in December.

Not since June of last year has the rate been at 10 percent. Still, for 42 consecutive months, Georgia has outpaced the national unemployment rate, which stood at 8.8 percent in March.

Mark Butler, the Georgia labor department commissioner, professed optimism that the statistics released Monday portend sunnier hiring days ahead.

“The drop in the unemployment rate is encouraging, but I’m more pleased that we’ve now had two consecutive months of job growth, coupled with fewer layoffs,” he said. “It appears that employers are growing more confident that our economy is improving.”

Butler has company. The National Association for Business Economics, a professional association for economists, reported Monday that the number of companies hiring versus firing hit levels not seen since at least 1982. None of the survey’s respondents expect that to change over the next six months.

“Things are looking much better,” said Buckhead’s Meghan Lopez, who recently landed a job as a nonprofit mental health worker after months of searching. “It seems like there are more jobs available on CareerBuilder and all those different websites.”

The leisure and hospitality industries –bars and restaurants, in particular –accounted for 60 percent of the 15,600 new jobs created last month in Georgia. Expect more service-related good news next month. McDonald’s, for example, will begin hiring 1,000 new employees Tuesday for its 277 north Georgia restaurants.

Manufacturing logged 2,100 net new hires in March. Computer design, warehousing, educational services, electronic equipment and the transportation industries also added jobs.

“In Georgia, basically, the job losses ended almost a year ago, but we haven’t seen very much job growth until really the beginning of this year,” said Jeff Humphreys, . “We’ve added a significant number of jobs and they’re coming in fast enough to bring the unemployment rate down slowly.”

The pain, though, lingers for Georgia’s long-term unemployed who’ve been jobless at least 27 weeks. A record 56 percent of the state’s 469,103 jobless have been without work for that amount of time.

Humphreys expects job growth to remain steady, if not spectacular, with 9.5 percent unemployment by year’s end.

“We’ve already made a lot of progress so that makes people go out and start to look for jobs again,” he said. “But that will slow down the (drop) in the unemployment rate because more people are re-entering the labor force.”