Source: The Atlanta Business Chronicle
Atlanta just saw its best stretch of job growth in five years — and for some employment sectors the best period since the late 1990s.
The improvement in the jobs picture comes after months of local and national employment data that showed Atlanta was lagging other metro areas whose job growth was recovering much faster. But, the initial data did a poor job of tracking the birth and death of companies, causing the numbers to miss the mark.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data originally showed greater Atlanta losing 17,600 non-farm jobs and the state losing 15,600 last year. Atlanta actually added 34,300 jobs in 2011, Georgia 35,000.
Georgia’s upward revision was the largest of any state, said Jeff Humphreys, economist at the Terry College of Business at The University of Georgia.
These are very encouraging numbers,” Humphreys said.
Atlanta recently completed its strongest stretch of employment growth since 2007, netting 68,400 jobs from January 2011 to January 2012, said Wells Fargo Securities LLC economist Mark Vitner, whose March 5 report on the revisions was titled: “Georgia’s recovery kicked into high gear during 2011.”
Atlanta’s job growth has appeared anything but in high gear.
Even so, for the year-over-year period ending January 2012, some of Atlanta’s job sectors saw their strongest expansion since the ’90s.
For example, 26,200 jobs were created in professional and business services in Atlanta, the best mark since June 1999 when 29,700 jobs were added over a one-year stretch, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.
Professional and business services help form the backbone of the metro Atlanta economy and includes law, accounting and engineering firms.
Among these is Pricewaterhouse- Coopers LLP, which expects by mid-2012 to move about 1,100 employees into new offices at the 1075 Peachtree building in Midtown. The Atlanta office could also see 20 percent employment growth in the next two to three years.
Another was North Highland, a Buckhead consulting firm, which has said it’s posting double-digit growth, creating the need to expand its headquarters. It chose to relocate to the Terminus 200 office tower in Buckhead last year.
Deloitte LLP’s consulting revenues have led the firm’s other business areas the past two years.
“Business services lives off the good fortune of others, so this tells me, in part, that the economic recovery is sustained and broadening,” Humphreys said.
Also during that January-to-January stretch, the trade, transportation and utilities sector added 20,300 jobs in Atlanta, the best since December 2006, the labor department said.
That sector includes retailers, airlines, railways, freight and warehousing, among other employers.
The sector’s growth was illustrated by a big March jobs announcement: Australian supply-chain logistics company CHEP will move its U.S. headquarters to metro Atlanta from Orlando, Fla., and bring with it 173 corporate jobs.
The CHEP USA headquarters will be in Dunwoody, Ga.
Atlanta saw 12,800 jobs added in education and health services during that same January-to-January stretch. That sector, economists have predicted, will help lead Atlanta out of the downturn. The last time it added that many jobs over one year was in March 2006, when it expanded by 14,500 jobs, the Labor Department said.
Manufacturing also added 5,800 jobs in metro Atlanta from January to January — the most since October 1995. The growth is a salve to the region, which has suffered major setbacks to its manufacturing employment base since the late ’90s, with the closings of the Ford Motor Co. plant in Hapeville, Ga., and the GM plant in Doraville, Ga.
“Compared to last year, we are seeing a lot more activity in manufacturing,” said Brooks Mathis, vice president of economic development for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.
Its economic development teams are working on projects that reflect broad-based growth, including manufacturing, international companies seeking to expand in metro Atlanta, and existing companies that also want to grow.
“These are fast-moving projects,” Mathis said. “They see an economy that has become more positive, and they see that they are finally able to start growing again.”
Economists, though, want to temper too much enthusiasm.
Wells Fargo cautioned the pace of job growth between January 2011 and January 2012 might not reflect a true picture of the speed at which the recovery is happening.
Such strong growth in professional services also suggests that rather than hiring, companies are still outsourcing their work, using temporary staff, or both, Humphreys said.
“It suggests there is still uncertainty out there, and uncertainty has been a hallmark of this recovery,” he said.
There remains a 35 percent chance the nation could still suffer a back-to-back recession, Humphreys said, citing worries related to oil prices and the global financial markets.
Humphreys, though, said he dropped his chances of another recession from 45 percent.
The upward revisions do lessen the blow that Georgia’s economy suffered since 2007, though not by much.
Georgia lost more than 222,000 jobs in 2009 alone. It was going to take the state until 2020 to get back all the jobs lost since the recession.
“Now we’re looking at 2018,” Humphreys said.
Where the jobs are
Atlanta’s fastest-growing jobs sectors January 2011 to January 2012:
- Professional and business services 26,200 jobs
- Trade, transportation and utilities 20,300 jobs
- Education and health services 12,800 jobs