While the unemployment rate is still above the U.S. average, the metro economy has been growing faster than the nation’s, adding 77,000 jobs since March of last year when the unemployment rate was 5.7 percent.
The month was solid, if unspectacular, as the economy added just slightly fewer jobs than the average post-recession March. Perhaps more importantly, Atlanta has continued a six-year trajectory of improvement, surging by 386,000 jobs.
During the worst years of cuts and stingy hiring, many workers opted to drop out of the job search – and were not even counted as officially unemployed. But optimism about the current trajectory of growth has seemingly drawn more people back into the workforce, according to the Labor Department.
In the past two months, the workforce expanded by nearly 34,000 people. During the past year, the workforce has grown by more than 59,000 workers.
Last month’s growth was broad with virtually every sector except only information services growing.
More than six years after post-recession hiring finally resumed, the economy can finally boast more jobs, more people working and more people in the workforce than before the downturn began in late 2007. There are slightly more people unemployed, and the unemployment rate has fallen back to the levels of early 2008.
Among lingering concerns: a historically large share of the 150,000 unemployed workers have been job-hunting for more than six months. And many of the jobs being created are not the high-paying, technically-oriented positions that economists say will raise standards of living and lift the economy.
The average pay in Atlanta is $48,755 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the biggest gains in March came in leisure and hospitality – a mainstay of the Atlanta economy that includes tourism and conventions and involves many jobs with modest paychecks.
Second-most gains came education and health services, another pillar of the economy given the number of schools and healthcare institutions.
Also adding jobs were government, manufacturing, the corporate sector, construction and logistics.
And while corporate relocation is a small share of the total, it can often mean addition of white-collar, better-paying jobs.
For instance, Australia-based Deputy recently opened continental headquarters in Alpharetta. The office is small – eight people – but will more than double by year’s end, said Jason Walker, the company’s vice president of strategy.
The company’s software can make scheduling of employee time dramatically more efficient by taking into account business needs, customer demands and worker preferences – and the software runs easily on phones, Walker said. “The reason we picked Atlanta is that we look on it as the Silicon Valley of the east. There’s so much expertise around here.”
Deputy is hiring executives, sales and marketing people, and a technical team to work with customers. “Every position we are hiring for is above the average pay for Atlanta.”
Job growth (or loss) in March:
Unemployment rate for March, in percent