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Atlanta jobs and wages rise — along with hopes for holiday hiring

By Michael E. Kanell 

Defying the local trend of a September hiring lull, metro Atlanta’s economy added jobs last month, according to a report Thursday from the Georgia Department of Labor.

Despite worries about a trade war with China or the ups and downs of the stock market, companies are adding employees and many blue-collar workers are starting to see higher wages.

The number of jobs in Atlanta grew by 1,900, giving the region 24,500 more jobs now than when 2018 began, according to a report Thursday from the Georgia Department of Labor.

The new jobs added so far is three times the number at the same point last year.

With the seasonal hiring surge just starting, Atlanta’s economic momentum is strong, said Mark Butler, the state’s labor commissioner. “We continue to add jobs and see the unemployment rate fall.”

The jobless rate dropped to 3.1 percent – the lowest level since the waning days of the boom in 2000. Metro Atlanta has added 60,300 jobs in the past 12 months.

The last three months of the year typically add more jobs to metro Atlanta’s economy than the nine that came before.

Last year, 83 percent of the jobs were added in the fourth quarter, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The prognosis is even better this year, said Larry Feinstein, chief executive of Atlanta-based Hire Dynamics, a staffing company with operations in the Southeast. “Demand is very high.”

Seasonal hiring, of course, is fueled by retail between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. So, many of the jobs are in the moving, handling and delivery of packages.

Among those hiring are Sandy Springs-based UPS and FedEx.

And with the unemployment rate low, companies have to pay a little more to locate and keep the workers they want – even at the less-skilled positions, Feinstein said. “If you pay $13 an hour and above, you can probably find the right talents. But if you are paying $13 and below, you are going to struggle.”

Even three years ago, the going rate was several dollars an hour less, he said. “Eleven dollars used to be enough.”

The Labor Department’s online listing service showed 47,866 active postings in metro Atlanta for September. Choices in the labor market are like an invitation for workers to jump at an opportunity to make more – and even Amazon says it is raising its entry-level pay $15 an hour.

Still, companies can find ways to save money, even while paying more, Feinstein said. Just preventing turnover is a savings, since it costs money and undermines productivity.

For workers, the improvement in hourly pay comes after many years of seeing costs rise faster than wages, though the minimum wage in Georgia is still $7.25 an hour.

Atlanta jobs
  • September 2018: added 1,900
  • Average, previous 10 Septembers: loss of 4,600
  • Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Atlanta’s strongest sectors for job growth, past year
  • Construction: up 9 percent
  • Education and health services: up 4 percent
  • Leisure and hospitality: up 3.9 percent
  • Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Holiday hiring, Jobs added October-December
  • 2013: 46,800
  • 2014: 55,000
  • 2015: 54,700
  • 2016: 42,500
  • 2017: 35,800

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fourth quarter hiring as share of year
  • 2013: 59.9 percent
  • 2014: 52.8 percent
  • 2015: 77.4 percent
  • 2016: 54.3 percent
  • 2017: 83.1 percent

This article originally appeared on the Atlanta Journal-Consitution.

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