The state’s economy added jobs at a solid pace in March – apparently enticing more people to enter the labor market, pushing the unemployment rate from 5.4 percent to 5.5 percent, the Georgia Labor Department announced today.
Roughly 12,600 jobs were added during the month, said Mark Butler, the state labor commissioner.
At the same time as the job growth, the number of unemployed – that is, people without work who are searching for a position – grew by 4,287 and the overall labor force expanded by 21,570.
So the month was an example of an improving economy causing a higher unemployment rate, Butler said. “Even though the rate went up slightly, March was really a good month for Georgia’s labor market.”
The unemployment rate is based not on job numbers, but on the number of people who are jobless and looking for a position. If a sense of optimism convinces some previously discouraged people to go back to the job search, it can push the jobless rate higher.
The total labor force – which includes people with jobs and people looking for them – has grown 55,000 this year.
Despite the slight increase in the jobless rate, it is still significantly below the rate of a year ago when it was 6.2 percent.
“While our month-to-month job growth was strong, our over-the-year job growth was even stronger,” Butler said: During the past year, the state’s employment base has grown at a 3.1 percent, adding 130,000 jobs. “We continue to outpace the rest of the nation.”
That is the best March-to-March job growth since 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It was also a better than an average March.
During the previous three years, Georgia has gained an an average of 9,600 jobs during the month. Since 1995, the average March added just 3,900 jobs.
During the past two decades, the strongest March was in 2014, when the economy added 23,700 jobs. The worst March was during the depths of the recession in 2009, when the economy shed 29,100 jobs.
Most of the added jobs this March came in construction, education and health services, information, government and the logistics sector known as trade, transportation and warehousing. There were some job losses in the corporate sector, and in leisure and hospitality.
Layoffs — as measured by new claims for unemployment insurance — dipped slightly during the month. Compared with a year ago, those claims were down 6.4 percent, mostly because of fewer cuts in construction.