Metro jobless rate drops sharply

Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.7 percent in October to 7 percent in November, the largest month-to-month decline in more than a decade, the state’s labor department reported Thursday.

Not since October 2008, as the Great Recession picked up steam, had the region’s jobless rate been so low. Then, as companies and governments began shedding jobs with abandon, the rate stood at 6.9 percent.

Five long years later, during which a good monthly jobs report has often been followed by a bad one, Atlanta’s employment picture now appears to be steadying — and brightening.

“I haven’t seen the job market this warm in more than six years,” said Paul Snyder, an intown Atlantan who got a public relations job in November. “I would be surprised if it slowed drastically or reversed course.”

Seasonal hiring trends help explain the big November decline. Fall is typically a time of job growth as retail and other industries gear up for the holiday season. December can be cruel to the job seeker. Last year, for example, the unemployment rate jumped from 8.1 in November to 8.4 percent in December.

“A lot of people are doing a lot of part-time hours, so after the holidays (the rate) will go up again,” predicted Harris Hollis, a laid-off long-distance trucker applying for unemployment benefits Thursday at a state-run jobs office in Northeast Atlanta.

Only a dozen other jobless waited alongside Hollis for assistance at the usually teeming “career center” on North Druid Hills Road, although the job center in Gwinnett County was much busier late Thursday morning.

Georgia Labor commissioner Mark Butler cited fewer jobless claims, and increased private sector hiring, for November’s good jobs news. 2014, overall, should be blue skies for Atlanta’s economy and its workers, he added.

“No doubt we’ll see some difficult bumps that we normally see in January and February, but in talking to employers across the state we’ll continue moving in the right direction,” Butler said. “More Georgians are going back to work.”

The Atlanta region added 59,200 jobs between November 2012 and November 2013, a 2.5 percent increase. Job growth materialized across the board: 15,100 accountants, secretaries and temp workers were hired; 12,000 waiters and housekeepers found work; and 11,500 teachers, nurses and home health care workers rejoined the labor force.

The construction (10,500 jobs) and transportation (8,700 jobs) industries also did well. Local, state and federal governments lopped off 6,900 jobs, or 1 percent of the November 2012 total.

“It would be phenomenally good news if we could remain stuck at 7 percent,” said Jeff Humphreys, an economist at the University of Georgia. “I expect more good news, but I would be surprised if the rate continues to fall at this pace.”

Nonetheless, Humphreys is revising his 2014 economic prognostications. He is further lowering his jobless rate predictions and expects only a 25 percent — down from 30 percent — chance the economy will return to recession.

Snyder, the P.R. guy, lost a fundraising job at a local college last June. A desire to return to publicity work led to a small, but promising roster of clients. Snyder, though, sought bigger, steadier game. He was hired last month by Write2Market, an Atlanta firm specializing in high tech, e-commerce and health care.

“Atlanta’s base of business is still so healthy that it doesn’t surprise me to see things rebounding here,” said Snyder, 40. “There are positions I was searching for that are still out there. In fact, we still have a couple of positions to fill.”

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