The Atlanta region’s economy has certainly been on a wild ride of late.

By some measures (think unemployment rate, job growth), we’re on the right track. But by other key data points (most notably, inflation), we’re clearly facing serious headwinds, as the economists say.

In a recent Regional Snapshot, the Atlanta Regional Commission’s data team took an in-depth look at where our region’s economy stands now, and where it may be headed in the months ahead. Here are the top-line findings:

Metro Atlanta’s Job Market is Back

We’ll lead with some of the good news. The Atlanta region’s employment has fully recovered from the pandemic.

Total employment is up by 14,800 compared to right before the pandemic hit, about half a percent. While our economy trails top markets like Austin and Dallas, we’re still one of the strongest in the country when measured by employment.

Most job sectors have increased since the pandemic started. Information services and education and health are each up almost 4% since February 2020.

Only one category, ‘Other Services,” is down. This includes personal, high-touch jobs like hair and nail salons, which are down more than 12%.

Here’s how we stack up to some of the nation’s biggest metros:

Employment Percent Change chart showing Atlanta in number 4

(Almost) Everyone is Earning More

We’ve all seen the headlines about wage increases. Even fast-food restaurants are posting “now hiring” signs that trumpet big hourly pay boosts.

So it’s no surprise, then, that wages are up sharply in metro Atlanta – more than 6% since the pandemic began.

That’s a smidge below the national average of 7.9%, and well below places like Dallas, where wages are up, get this, more than 13%. Guess things are always bigger in Texas.

With more money in our pockets, it’s no surprise we’re buying more stuff.

After a big drop off when COVID first hit, consumer spending in metro Atlanta rose steadily and now stands up more than 20% from the start of 2020.

Metro Atlanta Wage Growth Comparison, pre and post pandemic

Yikes! Inflation is Skyrocketing

But the encouraging wage gains in our region are all but being wiped out by inflation, which is rising at the fastest rate since the early 1980s nationally.

Here in metro Atlanta, prices are rising by nearly 10%, the highest among selected metro areas with comparable data. That compares to under 4% in 2018-2019.

Metro Atlanta likes to rank at the top of lists, but this is one category we can all agree it’s best not to be out in front.

What’s driving inflation in metro Atlanta? Transportation, mostly. Specifically, gas and new and used vehicles. So, while overall inflation is nearly 10%, private transportation costs are rising at nearly 30%, and fuel costs are above 50%.

Year over Year change in inflation chart

In Red-Hot Housing Market, Prices and Rents Soar

Let’s turn to the housing market for a moment, always a good indicator for how our economy’s doing.

The upshot: For-sale inventory is at all-time lows, pushing up the price of housing and rents alike.

In fact, metro Atlanta has experienced the largest relative increase in rental prices in the nation – up a whopping 43% in the past five years. The average monthly rent in the region now stands at $1,747 – still well below places like New York, L.A., and San Francisco, but the gap is closing.

Rent Index + Rent Growth chart, showing Atlanta as 41.3%

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.