The jobless rate in metro Atlanta dropped sharply last month, falling to 8 percent in August from 8.6 percent in July.
Fewer layoffs and 2,800 jobs added during the month contributed to the drop, the sharpest July-to-August fall since the state started collecting metro data in 1976.
People leaving the job market as they returned to school also helped drive down the rate, the state Labor Department said.
The drop is a signal that the economy continues to slowly but steadily improve, labor commissioner Mark Butler said.
“We have 57,000 more jobs than a year ago,” he said.
One went to Ashley Simmons, 27, of Atlanta.
Simmons said she searched for a job for four or five months after being laid off from a job at a large banking company. She found temporary work in accounting at a global logistics firm, thinking it would last only a little while.
“They liked me,” the Clark Atlanta graduate said. “And about three weeks ago, they hired me. And it’s exactly what I want to do. This is what I went to school for.”
Although both the state and metro jobless rate remains higher than the nation’s, the region has outpaced the rest of the country in the past year, said Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University.
“The job growth number is pretty decent,” he said.
Most critical to economic momentum, he said, is job growth in “catalyst” sectors – industries that drive job growth in other sectors: Technology, manufacturing, corporate headquarters and healthcare create demand for jobs in restaurants and retail, as well as various services.
The job numbers for Atlanta are not adjusted for seasonal trends like the return to school for both workers and students. But even if adjusted for those patterns, the drop would be significant.
Georgia’s statewide jobless rate in August was 8.7 percent, down just slightly from July.
Federal spending cuts — especially those stemming from sequestration – have been more damaging outside Atlanta, mostly around military bases. A government shutdown would ripple across the state, but the economic impact in Atlanta would be small.
“Of course it is going to be painful for people who are put on furlough, but it’s not a big part of the local economy,” Dhawan said.
Metro Atlanta has about 2.4 million jobs — about 44,100 held by federal employees, according to the state Labor Department.
Some metro counties’ jobless ates have fallen below the national rate of 7.3 percent. Gwinnett’s August rate was 7.1 percent, for instance, while Cobb’s was 7.2 percent. The rate was 8.4 percent in DeKalb, 8.8 percent in Fulton and 10.3 percent in Clayton.
Andy Decker, regional vice president at staffing firm Robert Half International, said he’s used to seeing an end-of-summer bounce as manufacturers gear up for the holidays. And some companies are doing end-of-year budgeting and forecasting for 2014 – which means they need more help with number-crunching.
“There is always something of a spike this time of year, but things have certainly accelerated,” he said.
One bright spot in the report was the addition of 8,100 added construction positions in the past year, thanks to a boost in homebuilding. Metro Atlanta now has about 96,100 jobs in the sector, vs. a peak of 140,000 before the recession.
“Our recent gain in construction is coming after a massive decline,” Dhawan noted.
Metro Atlanta’s Unemployment Rate
2012 ….. Rate
Jan. ….. 9.4%
Feb. ….. 9.3%
March ….. 8.9%
April ….. 8.5%
May ….. 8.7%
June ….. 9.3%
July ….. 9.3 %
August ….. 8.9%
Sept. ….. 8.5%
Oct. ….. 8.5%
Nov. ….. 8.1%
Dec. ….. 8.4%
2013 ….. Rate
Jan. ….. 8.7%
Feb. ….. 8.3%
March ….. 7.9%
April ….. 7.6%
May ….. 8.2%
June ….. 8.8%
July ….. 8.6%
August ….. 8.0%
Source: Georgia Department of Labor
Note: Rates are not seasonally adjusted