Unemployment, job growth show signs of improvement following a historic year

Georgia and the county are reporting some encouraging numbers when it comes to unemployment rates and job growth.

According to the Georgia Department of Labor, more jobs were available to Georgians in March, compared to February. Initial unemployment claims and the unemployment rate both went down. 

Nationwide, the number of Americans applying for unemployment aid fell last week to the lowest point since the start of the pandemic. 

Tom Smith has decades under his belt as an economist and he says even for him, the last year or so has been quite unpredictable. 

Smith is a finance professor at Emory's Goizueta Business School.

"It's the first time in recent history we've had such a global disruption to supply chains, markets, and the way that consumers are thinking about goods and services," Smith said. 

While the new numbers are encouraging news, Smith reminds everyone that recovery is a lengthy process. He referred to the 2008 recession. 

"Even after the recession was over, people still thought the economy was still in a recession because the jobs did not bounce back," Smith said. "So, I want to caution people who say oh, we're just going to return to normal next month or the month after that or by July first. It's probably going to take a while longer."

Smith says the current, steady improvements are the result of a combination of things. 

"There is a robust rollout of the vaccine. There was also a very good stimulus package that came through. There were additional rounds of PPP funds that went out. Small business association loans. So, I think there is a really nice combination of stimulus out there to help businesses reopen," Smith said. 

Even as life slowly returns to normal, Smith said it's difficult to know which industries will bounce back quickly and see the much-needed growth. 

"It really depends as people are coming out this, they could say 'I've saved up. I haven't done dry-cleaning in a year and a half, so maybe I should go out and spoil myself in some way in some shape or form.' I think we're going to see some of that, but I think it's going to be difficult to predict where people will aim that discretionary funding, Smith said. 

While the numbers are improving, there are still more than 500,000 Americans filing for unemployment every single week.

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