Employers follow the talent that’s flocking to Atlanta

In Atlanta, businesses and developers are following employees, who are choosing the city for reasons that go beyond career opportunities

While many areas of the country struggled to recover from the Great Recession, Atlanta’s economy rebounded quickly, and the region has become one of the hottest residential and labor markets in the United States.

In 2017, Atlanta had the third-highest net population growth in the country. Nearly 90,000 people relocated here from New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami and other major metros. And in the last five years, Atlanta’s job growth averaged 2.3 percent annually, outpacing the national average of 1.6 percent. The Atlanta Regional Commission predicts that the local population will reach 8 million by 2040, and a Georgia State University economist says Atlanta will be home to most of Georgia’s 68,900 new jobs in 2019.

Switching places

In more traditional development patterns, employers’ locations drive labor pool growth. But Atlanta is seeing the opposite. Businesses and developers are following the people, who are choosing Atlanta for reasons that go beyond career opportunities.

A big draw for transplants from other metros is Atlanta’s overall quality of life. The cost of living here sits at the national average for cities our size and is considerably lower than in cities such as San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. The average Atlanta home price, for example, is about $16,000 less than the national average.

As this employee pool has gotten deeper, companies like Norfolk Southern and Thyssenkrupp have moved their headquarters here, while Anthem, Amazon and UPS expand their local footprints, because they want to be where their target workforces are. For example, the large blue-collar workforce in submarkets surrounding the city are attracting the bulk of the area’s warehouse and transportation developments, while white-collar workers are settling in core areas like Buckhead and Midtown, and the corporate jobs are right behind them.

Wherever they live, Atlanta employees have characteristics employers want in their people. Forty percent of the region’s workforce have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the coveted millennial demographic loves Atlanta — nearly one-fourth of the area’s residents are between 23 and 38 years old.

Leading the pack

Workers have a variety of industries to choose from in Atlanta—but technology, logistics and healthcare are creating the most jobs, according to WorkSource Atlanta.

  • Between 2010 and 2015 the local IT industry added more than 13,000 jobs — five percent higher than the national average — with nearly five percent of tech job postings in 2018 for software developers.
  • Postings for tractor-trailer truck drivers accounted for 3.4 percent of all job postings last year — no surprise given Atlanta’s geographic position at the crossroads of interstates 75 and 85, making it a destination for warehouse users and intermodal transportation providers.
  • The healthcare sector has 260,000 jobs in the metro area, and nearly four percent of postings last year were for registered nurses.

WorkSource projects that healthcare and technology alone will create about 55,000 new local jobs by 2024. And according to a recent report in Forbes, Atlanta is one of five markets that could eclipse Silicon Valley as a national center of technology growth, citing innovative higher education institutions such as Georgia Tech and a strong venture investment market. 

The logistics market will only get more robust, too, given the city’s proximity to the Port of Savannah and the Appalachian Regional Port, which opened near the southern Tennessee-northern Georgia border in August 2018.

Keeping its edge

Employers and regional leaders aren’t taking Atlanta’s momentum for granted. Corporate leaders continue to focus on how to attract and retain talent — often by making sure their physical spaces are rich with amenities and smartly designed.

NCR’s newest tower, in Midtown’s TechSquare, includes a two-story gym, a yoga studio, a food court and a rooftop terrace that connects to a second tower. Flooring designer and manufacturer Interface built a new headquarters that meets workers’ desires for environmentally and health-conscious workplaces. And developments in outer areas such as Avalon and Halcyon are attracting residents who want an urban experience in suburbia.

Private industry, public officials and higher education institutions also are finding innovative ways to partner to keep employee funnels full.

For example, students and their future employers can meet and collaborate in Georgia Tech’s $355 million Coda technology and research facility, some of which the school is leasing to private tenants. And city planners are investing in transportation improvements that pave the way for popular live-work-play environments like Ponce City Market and The Battery.

Atlanta is thriving in general because it is blending what residents want with what they didn’t even know they were looking for. No one anticipated the runaway success of projects like Ponce City Market and The Battery three or four years before they were developed. Now they’re such an anchor of the city, it’s hard to imagine Atlanta without them. Atlanta has become the ultimate amenity.

Learn more

To learn more about these migration trends and why Atlanta continues to remain a popular choice for workers and employers alike, download JLL’s The ATL Factor: Why people and employers choose Atlanta.

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