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The Atlanta Fed's SouthPoint offers commentary and observations on various aspects of the region's economy.

The blog's authors include staff from the Atlanta Fed's Regional Economic Information Network and Public Affairs Department.

Postings are weekly.

Regional Payroll Growth Rebounds in February

According to last week's regional and state employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Sixth District states added 34,000 payrolls on net, and the unemployment rate declined to 6.4 percent in February. These data follow a much bleaker January report, which indicated that the District shed payrolls for the first time in about a year and a half, losing 20,700 jobs. The new February data are definitely a step in the right direction and perhaps signal that the region's labor markets are getting back on their feet after a few months of slower job growth, a pattern not uncommon over the last few years. Not surprisingly, we've seen a similar pattern during the last few months in the national data as well (see the chart).

However, despite the more positive aggregate Sixth District payroll figure for February, Florida was the primary driver of payroll growth, while Georgia and Mississippi continued to shed jobs.

Payroll survey
Florida added 33,400 payrolls on its own over the month. In fact, Florida saw the third-largest gain of any state in the nation in February, following only California and Texas. Payroll growth in Florida was driven by the construction sector (up 7,200 new payrolls over the month), retail (up 7,000), education and health sectors (up 5,300), and leisure and hospitality (up 3,900).

As for other District states, Tennessee experienced a modest gain in payrolls in February, adding 6,900 jobs. Tennessee's payroll growth over the month was primarily concentrated in professional and business services (up 5,100). Louisiana and Alabama respectively added 1,900 and 200 jobs, while Mississippi (down 2,200 payrolls) and Georgia (down 5,800) continued to shed payrolls (see the chart).

Household survey
The aggregate unemployment rate for the Sixth District declined from 6.5 percent to 6.4 percent in February. Four out of the six District states experienced declines in their unemployment rates and Florida's rate remained unchanged, despite Florida seeing the second-largest one-month increase in that state's labor force on record (up 58,400). The only District state that saw an increase in its unemployment rate in February was Alabama, where the rate of unemployment increased from 6.1 percent to 6.4 percent during the month. This increase comes as Alabama saw the largest-ever one-month increase in its labor force, excluding the temporary hiring boost from the 2010 census. Of the roughly 12,600 additional labor force participants in Alabama from January to February, about 6,800 were unemployed. Of Florida's 58,400 new labor force participants, only about 4,500 were unemployed (see the table).


Want to find out how many jobs it would take to lower the unemployment rate in any of the 50 states? Check out the Atlanta Fed's State Jobs Calculator.

The next regional and state employment report from the BLS reflecting March data will be released April 18.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department