Metro Atlanta Employment Rate Sees Continued Increase
For Spring 2017, technology sectors show strong performance

Packing your bags and moving to Atlanta has its challenges, but finding an in-demand job has recently become much easier in the metro Atlanta area. According to the Georgia Department of Labor, employment rose 3.9 percent year over year in March, which is the largest year-over-year increase in the state’s history.

In May, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent from 5 percent in April. It was 5.3 percent the previous year. While unemployment soared into the double digits during the recession years, the city has continually seen a decrease. The good news is tempered by the fact that economy still lost 2,800 jobs, though Georgia’s Labor Commissioner Mark Butler remains positive.

“New claims for unemployment insurance, a measure of new layoffs, dropped to the lowest level we’ve seen in nearly 19 years,” Butler says in a May release.

Thomas Cunningham, chief economist for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, believes the increase in jobs is not a fluke and expects the number of Atlanta jobs to continue to go up. Cunningham credits Atlanta’s “thriving business environment” for his outlook.

“I suspect that the [employment] surge that we have seen recently is mostly statistical noise, but the underlying trend of extremely strong growth is real. Atlanta is a good place to live and work,” Cunningham says.

Sectors On the Rise

Some of Atlanta’s job sectors are doing better than others. Technology as well as leisure and hospitality have shown the highest increases, while retail continues to decline, reflecting a national trend, according to Cunningham.

“We are seeing strong performance from the tech sectors,” Cunningham says. “All of these firms that have chosen to put their digital innovation centers in Atlanta, that creates a lot of jobs all by itself, but more importantly it incents other firms to move into the area because the people they want to do business with are here, too. The whole package is fairly attractive. Then, you combine that with an excellent business environment, we are doing really well.”

Atlanta’s strong tech-oriented and engineering schools, anchored by Georgia Tech, are helping attract tech companies that want to be where the talent is, he adds.

The technology sector, along with leisure and hospitality, have seen the most growth, but Cunningham notes that construction jobs are also increasing as well, but this is limited due to a lack of skilled labor.

“We have not returned to the level of construction employment that we saw pre-recession [2008]. Probably, we don’t want to get back to that level because it seemed to be unsustainably high, but we still could use some more workers [in the construction sector]. I don’t think that is going away,” Cunningham says.

Cunningham also expects other job sectors to increase as well. “I certainly think that we could easily see more employment in logistics, transportation, but beyond that it is kind of the usual things, like leisure and hospitality, services, business services, education, which have been fairly strong performers. I think that they will continue to be,” Cunningham says.

Helping New Talent Choose Atlanta

While the chamber’s key focus is to recruit companies to Atlanta, its ChooseATL initiative is aimed at attracting tech and other skilled talent to the Atlanta area. Kate Atwood, executive director of ChooseATL, feels that a lot of companies have decided to relocate to Atlanta because of the amount of talent available here.

“With over 60 colleges and universities, and with the Brookings Institute recently naming Atlanta as a global ‘knowledge capital,’ our talent is a big asset when it comes to the recruitment of business,” Atwood says. “We will continue to work hand in hand to make sure the talent stays here and that new talent continues to choose Atlanta when they are entering the workforce.”

Launched in May 2015, ChooseATL previously showcased at the South by Southwest tech conference in Austin, Texas, as well as a dozen universities around the country to try and bring more talented individuals to Atlanta, reaching over half a million job-seeking graduates and their parents through social media and advertisements. Atwood says Atlanta is the perfect opportunity for millennials who are just graduating college and are looking for a job.

“When it comes to starting a career, connecting to community and being next to the culture that influences the world, no emerging city can go toe-to-toe with Atlanta,” she says. “It is the new epicenter and it will continue to rise and be so in a collaborative and inclusive way.”

Like Cunningham, Atwood expects the job outlook to continue its positive trend. “The opportunities that millennials crave when it comes to careers, culture and community are abundant in Atlanta. With over 1,000 startups, Atlanta is Inc.’s No. 3 startup hub to watch,” she says. “More Fortune 500 companies also have headquarters in Atlanta than Dallas and Nashville combined and WalletHub ranked Atlanta as the No. 3 city for the most job opportunities heading into 2017.”

Looking For a Job?

Employ Georgia, GDOL’s online job listing service, showed around 200 jobs added in May to the 133,734 currently available in the state on the job listing service. To start your search, visit