One key driver has been the surge in online ordering, which spurred breakneck hiring for warehouse, trucking and distribution workers, as well as those who write the software that keeps goods flowing.
Online shopping has driven up jobs in warehousing and delivery in metro Atlanta. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Since the pandemic-triggered shutdowns of the spring, the number of warehouse and transportation jobs grew 10%, according to data collected by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. Amazon led the pack in hiring, but other metro Atlanta retailers like Walmart, Kroger and Home Depot also added thousands of workers.
Last month, transportation and warehousing expanded by 8,200 positions — more than half of the increase coming from couriers and messengers.
Retailers added 10,700 jobs while the corporate sector added 5,100 jobs and construction added 1,900 slots.
Among sectors that lost jobs were manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, finance and government.
Unlike a typical recovery, this economy is struggling with an uncontrolled virus. While vaccines are being rolled out, months of social distancing and fear of in-person encounters remain, which fuels some kinds of spending and stymies others.
Another sign of uncertainty was an increase by 2,100 in temp workers, a category that has added 19,500 jobs since August, said Atlanta economist Michael Wald, formerly of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Years ago, that hiring would be seen as a good sign, because economists assumed those temps would eventually get full-time jobs, he said.
“Today, I am not so sure. Businesses might just choose to keep their staff on temporary status to give them labor flexibility,” Wald said.
Economist Tom Smith of Emory’s Goizueta Business School said the pandemic is reshaping the economy in some ways that may be permanent.
“What troubles me the most — I look at retail and the food sectors, and I am just fearful that it’s not going to come back,” he said. “People are changing their habits. Are people going to flock to restaurants the way they did before?”
Last week, accommodation and food services workers accounted for slightly more than one-fourth of the 26,673 new jobless claims in Georgia, state numbers say.
In the past four weeks, the department has handled 102,561 new claims.
About 176,000 people in metro Atlanta are jobless and actively looking for work, according to the Labor Department. That does not include people who have given up the search or who have taken part-time jobs.
Metro Atlanta’s November economy*
Sectors adding jobs
Warehousing and transportation
Sectors shedding jobs
Leisure and hospitality
Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Georgia, new jobless claims*
Nov. 7: 23,827
Nov. 14: 19,626
Nov. 21: 20,088
Nov. 28: 19,183
Dec. 5: 33,003
Dec. 12: 23,702
Dec. 19: 26,673
*Sources: Georgia Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration