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Georgia reverses trend, posts modest job growth in May

Georgia added 6,800 jobs last month, but the modest growth followed two weak months for hiring.

The state economy has been decelerating, adding fewer jobs so far this year than during the five-month start to any year since 2010, according to a report from the Georgia Labor Department Thursday.

As anemic as it might be, growth has continued.

During the past 12 months, the state’s economy has added 76,700 jobs, said Mark Butler, labor commissioner for Georgia. “Georgia continues to prove that it is a great place for both employees and employers.”

Also Thursday, Gov. Nathan Deal announced plans of GE Appliance to create 100 jobs as part of a $55 million investment in Commerce during the next 10 months.

The state has about 400,000 manufacturing jobs, but the sector has grown slowly, if at all. Most of the recent growth has been in two sectors: logistics and hospitality, the labor department said.

The number of job openings currently exceeds the number of people looking for work, according to the government. That could be evidence that the lack of good workers is slowing down hiring. (AJC File Photo)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The unemployment rate for Georgia – which is calculated from a separate survey — ticked down to 4.2 percent, its lowest level since mid-2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest rate recorded in Georgia was 3.4 percent in 2000.

Experts have offered various reasons for the slow hiring. One explanation is that virtually everyone who wants to work is already in the labor market. That idea is supported by complaints from some companies of a shortage in qualified workers: Thousands of job openings are posted, but many positions simply go unfilled.

But there are also signs that the labor market is not as tight as the low jobless rate might indicate. For example, wages have not climbed the way they typically do when workers are scarce.

It may also be that most companies simply do not have the demand for their products or services that would justify the expense of hiring, so they try to make do with their current workforce.

It is also possible that the current political and economic environment is too uncertain for many employers to make the costly commitment to hire. The state’s economy is now tightly linked to global trade and would be affected by anything that roils global trade.

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