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Metro Atlanta leads nation in job growth

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Metro Atlanta leads nation in job growth

Picture still bleak for the rest of the state

By johnson PETTYS

The Associated Press

Amid fresh signs the national economy is strengthening, a new government report shows the Atlanta area added more jobs during the past year than any other metropolis the country.

However, job growth in the rest of Georgia remained slow.

"The job machine is no longer in reverse. It is finally in forward gear and it will be picking up speed next year," said University of Georgia economist Jeffrey Humphreys. "But it's pretty much an Atlanta story," he added.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday that the Atlanta area gained 65,700 new jobs during the 12 months ending in September. The next highest gains were in Las Vegas, which added 23,700 jobs, and Phoenix, which added 19,400.

Between August and September, Georgia added 13,300 jobs, second only to Florida's 20,800.

Coupled with a Commerce Department report Thursday that the nation's third-quarter growth rate was the strongest in nearly two decades, the job report shows the state's economy "is strengthening substantially," said Humphreys.

"Sub-par growth is being replaced by growth that is typical or average for this stage of the business cycle," he said.

That's good news in the long term for Gov. Sonny Perdue, struggling to manage state spending after two straight years of revenue declines. But it won't pay off immediately, Humphreys said.

"The budget cycle lags the economic cycle anywhere from three to six months," he said. "To balance, we need a very big increase and we may not quite get that, at least in this year's budget. The gains show up more strongly in the next fiscal year."

Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said that while the job report was positive for Atlanta, "The picture statewide didn't change at all, or very little. We're in very, very tough times for the rest of the state and we're facing 2,100 layoffs in Macon with Brown & Williamson."

The plant is expected to close within two years.

"It's an understatement to say manufacturing is in a recession," said Humphreys. "It's actually in a depression. We've lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs since 1998, about one jobs out of every five. It continues."

The job gains in Atlanta were led by professional and business services -- legal, accounting, janitorial and landscaping, among others -- and by private-sector education and health care, Humphreys said.

The travel and tourism industry remains down in Atlanta because business travel remains depressed, he said, but those sectors are showing improvement on the coast and in the mountains.

Georgia lost 159,300 jobs between December 2000 and January 2003, according to the state Department of Labor.

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Guest donaltopablo

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing all over the world. The shift is more towards service jobs.

What can other cities in Georgia do to "compete" with Atlanta?

Probably move away from manufacturing. It seems to be such a large part of the other cities economies.

Atlanta has such a balanced economy, and is not heavily weighted to one sector. Diversify would probably be the first thing they could do.

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