As the capital and largest city in Georgia, the recovery and growth of Atlanta’s labor market has been challenged. While economic indicators point to the city and state having excellent economic potential, the jobless rate in both remains above the US unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which records the Atlanta unemployment rate at 5.9 percent for May, 2015, compared with a 5.5 percent.
Atlanta During the 2008 Recession and Its Aftermath
Atlanta weathered the 2008 recession poorly and its jobless rates exceeded the national average. While the national unemployment rate topped out at 10 percent in late 2009, Atlanta recorded jobless rates of over 10 percent. While these rates slowed and finally decreased nationwide throughout 2010, unemployment in Atlanta didn’t peak until 2010. Since that time, economic recovery for Atlanta has proven slow but steady.
Unemployment in Atlanta in 2011 and Beyond
In 2011, over three years after the recession first hit, Atlanta still found itself in a tough spot. Where the national jobless rate across the United States hovered at about 9.1 percent in mid-2011, Atlanta’s unemployment rate remained at or above 10 percent. From late 2011 to the present, the city has seen a steady increase in its employment, unlike that in some of its neighboring counties and towns.
Atlanta’s Current and Projected Jobless Rates
In late 2014, the Atlanta unemployment rate sat comfortably at 6.5 percent, just a few points higher than the national average of 5.8 percent. This recovery from 2012 to the present was due in part to some of Georgia’s economic decisions.
In recent years, the state has welcomed corporations by offering a hands-off approach to dealing with businesses. In doing so, it maintains low tax rates, low wages and a lower level of services.
Additionally, in 2013, Georgia became one of the first states to decrease the period of time that an unemployed person can claim benefits. Currently, unemployment benefits in Georgia last for 18 weeks; in the future, Georgia’s unemployment benefits will be reduced to 14 weeks.
Cuts in higher education and financial aid in Georgia for college and technical schools have required many students to drop out of school or simply not enroll. This means that jobless people who need work are often no longer able to go through normal educational channels to improve their job skills. Since over 60 percent of jobs in the state require a college degree but only about 42 percent of Georgians possess one, this may prove more problematic.
Atlanta’s Major Industries and Their Impact on Unemployment
According to the BLS, major industries in Atlanta that demonstrate growth include trade, transportation and utilities, along with government, professional and business services, and education and health services. From 2013 to 2014, both the trade and transportation and professional and business services sectors grew between 3 percent and 5 percent. These numbers point to positive trends for these supersectors, where employment may continue to grow.
Industries that demonstrated extremely slow growth in Atlanta from 2013 to 2014 include mining and logging, education, information and government. Even though a significant portion of Atlanta's workforce lies in government and education, these industries don't reflect immediate opportunities for job growth. Some of these trends may slow or reverse over the next decade, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates.
Through 2022, the BLS projects increased opportunities for education jobs in the South, with about 12 percent job growth expected over the next decade. Transportation, another major industry in Atlanta, demonstrates similar growth. Through 2022, the BLS projects 9 percent job growth for commercial pilots, or about 3,600 new jobs nationwide. Within the healthcare industry, the BLS projects 18 percent job growth for physicians and 38 percent job growth for physician assistants nationwide. With healthcare already growing in Atlanta, this could prove to be a booming industry in the city.
While Atlanta has seen higher unemployment rates than the national average since the 2008 recession, job growth in the city from 2010 onward has vastly improved employment prospects. Continued growth in industries like healthcare and transportation point to the potential for additional job prospects in years to come.
A key measure of labor supply, the unemployment rate is defined as the percentage of the total labor force that is unemployed but actively seeking employment and willing to work. Use the links below to see unemployment trends from the 28 major metropolitan markets:
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