Georgia’s unemployment rate reaches record low of 3.3%

Georgia’s unemployment rate reaches record low of 3.3%
Georgia’s unemployment rate inched down to 3.3% in November, the lowest level since the government started keeping track 43 years ago. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Rate dipped in November as state economy added 6,500 jobs

Georgia’s unemployment rate inched down to 3.3% in November, the lowest level since the government started keeping track 43 years ago.

The record was reached after the state economy added 6,500 jobs last month, slightly less than average for November, the Georgia Department of Labor reported Thursday.

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In October, the unemployment rate had dipped to 3.4%, matching the previous low notched in 2001 toward the end of the tech boom.

“It’s nice to see this at the end of the year,” said Mark Butler, state labor commissioner. “I think we are going to continue to see Georgia move in the right direction.”

That momentum has continued despite trade tensions and political uncertainty, at least partly because lower interest rates and steady job growth have kept American consumer wallets open this holiday season.

The record-low unemployment rate in Georgia also came despite growth in the labor force, an indication that hiring was able to soak up most job seekers.

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Georgia this year has added 60,900 jobs. While that is weaker growth than in any of the previous seven years, it is the 10th consecutive year of adding jobs, paralleling the nation’s record-long expansion.

During that span, the jobless rate has steadily slipped from a painful high of 10.6% to levels unseen since the boom of the late 1990s – and even then, 3.4% was the lowest low.

The last quarter of the year is often strong for job growth, thanks to holiday hiring.

Last month, the sector that includes retail and logistics led the way, adding 3,200 jobs in stores, trucking, warehouses and delivery.

Construction, which had been showing signs of weakness for several months, was also strong, adding 2,300 jobs during November.

A recent survey found companies are less than optimistic about the economy, said Colleen Madden Blumenfeld, spokeswoman for the national outplacement firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

But economist Nick Bunker of Indeed, a website for job searchers, said that surveys are not as important as actions – even when the help wanted signs are not as plentiful.

“Job openings have slowed down, while hiring has actually held up,” he said. “We are seeing more hires per job opening.”

The quality of jobs remains problematic, since logistics and retail tend not to pay well, he said. “Wage growth is not too strong. But if job growth continues into 2020, then we’ll see wage growth pick up again.”

Overall wage increases have been modest throughout the expansion, but pay in many jobs has notched up, largely because of increased scarcity of workers.

As the unemployment rate falls, continued hiring does draw some people back into the workforce, but many companies do struggle to find specialized skills, said Kim Wallace, executive vice president of Hire Dynamics, an Atlanta-based staffing company.

“The job market is tight,” she said. “The hardest to find are maintenance mechanics. The higher skilled positions are the most difficult.”