Saturday, June 18, 2022

Employment up and unemployment rate down, but it isn’t all good news for Georgia in May

Georgia saw the addition of 18,100 jobs in May and a drop of the state’s unemployment rate to 3.0%, which is the lowest unemployment rate recorded in Georgia (back to 1976). The state’s employment-population ratio (the number of employed people as a percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population) rose to 60.5, reaching the level it achieved in February 2020, before Covid-related cutbacks and shutdowns. The state’s labor force participation rate (the participation rate is the percentage of the population that is either working or actively looking for work.) rose to 62.3, still below the level in February 2020. 

Those are the headlines, and if you stop there, you are getting only part of the picture of the state’s labor market. 

Job growth by metro area 

Underlying those numbers, it is worth noting that the Atlanta metro area, which has served as the engine for the state’s employment growth, saw an increase of only 4,400 jobs in May, the slowest rate of increase since September. While one-month slowdown in the state’s largest metro area is not a concern and may easily be rectified when the revised numbers are produced next month, it needs to be an area of concern. 

Despite the continued good numbers overall, 6 of the state’s 14 metro areas reported employment below their pre-pandemic levels. Because the Atlanta area constitutes such a large portion of the state’s labor market, it can mask slower growth in other parts of the state. 

Areas showing May 2022 job levels lower than in February 2020 include Valdosta (-200), Dalton (-300), Warner Robins (-500), Augusta (-2,800), Columbus (-1,700), and Albany (-1,100). Most of these areas have never achieved their pre-pandemic jobs levels, although Dalton had reached that level but has slipped back in the past few months. 

Job growth by industry 

A similar situation relates to jobs by industry. Georgia has added 244,100 jobs over the past 12 months, resulting in a 5.4% job growth rate, but not all sectors in the economy have reached their pre-pandemic levels despite this overall increase. 

Construction employment in the state remains 4,000 jobs below its pre-pandemic level (down nearly 2%) mainly due to a lack of job growth in the heavy construction (infrastructure) industry. 

Employment in corporate offices (referred to as management of companies and enterprises) remains down by 1,500 jobs. 

Jobs in accommodation and food services remain 16,800 (-3.7%) below their pre-pandemic level, while jobs in other services are 7,300 (-4.3%) below the level reached in February 2020. 

Both state and local government jobs remain below pre-pandemic levels with state government jobs down by 13,200 (-7.9%) and local government employment down by 9,000 (-2.1%). 

Even with the upbeat news on job growth and the decline in the state’s unemployment rate, its worth remembering that not all industries or all areas of the state have recovered yet.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Heavy and civil engineering construction continues to lag in Georgia and foretell future problems


Drive around the Atlanta area and you are bound to see new construction – both multifamily and single-family residences continue to spring up all over the metro area, as they are in other parts of the state, such as the Savannah area.

Despite these visible signs of improvement, construction employment continues to lag behind the private sector in general.

In 2021, average annual employment in Georgia’s private sector grew by almost 4.9%, while construction employment rose by only 2%.

Residential construction keeping up construction employment

Much of the disparity lies with the increase of residential construction versus nonresidential building and heavy and civil engineering construction.

Between 2020 and 2021, employment in residential construction increased by 5.4%, while nonresidential building construction rose by 1.5%, and employment in heavy and civil engineering construction actually declined 3.8%.

Compared to February 2020 (pre-pandemic), construction employment through April is ahead by 3,165 workers, with building construction employment up by 1,743 and specialty trades contractors’ employment increasing by 4,148.

Heavy and civil engineering construction

What is heavy and civil engineering construction? Think water and sewers, pipeline, and power and communication systems, not to mention roads and bridges, and you have a pretty good idea of the types of construction that fall into this category.

Employment in heavy and civil engineering construction is actually down by -2,726 compared to its pre-pandemic levels.

Imbalances will lead to problems

The imbalances in the recovery of the construction sector point to trends as well as future problems.

The trend in constructing residential versus nonresidential buildings can be partly explained by the work-from-home trend as fewer workers on-site means less need for commercial office space.

Unfortunately, the trend in residential construction without the corresponding increase in water, sewer, and other types of heavy construction, such as roads, means that residents of these newly occupied family dwellings will find themselves with inadequate infrastructure to support their living.

As a result, more crowded roads, decaying bridges, inadequate water systems, etc., look to frustrate residents.

Since most heavy construction is publicly funded through taxes, the solution depends on the willingness of taxpayers to increase taxes on themselves. Short of increased taxes to fund public improvements, Georgians will find themselves complaining about the situation while unwilling to take the necessary steps towards improving it.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Census data show shifts in Georgia population out of core Atlanta counties in 2021

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals a significant shift in population out of the Atlanta’s core counties in 2021. 

While the Atlanta metro area remains the most populous region in the state, and Fulton County continues as the location of the both the most populated county in the state and home to the largest number of jobs of any county in Georgia, in 2021 the area’s population is shifted away from core counties, such as Fulton and DeKalb, to counties outside this traditional core area.

Population shifts

Three suburban Atlanta counties, Forsyth, Gwinnett, and Cherokee, showed the largest net increases in population from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021. Forsyth County added 7,420 people, Gwinnett increased by 6,745, and Cherokee’s population rose by 6,572. Combined, population in the three counties grew by 20,737.

Other counties making up the top 10 in adding population included Paulding (4,120), Hall (3,780), Jackson (3,574), Henry (3,417), Coweta (3,303), Columbia (2,866), and Walton (2,718). Columbia County, which is part of the Augusta metro area, is the only county in this group whose population is not tied directly to employment in the Atlanta metro area.

At the other end of the spectrum, DeKalb and Fulton counties recorded the largest population declines of -6,113 and -3,689, respectively. A significant portion of these declines occurred as people moved out of the two counties that was partially offset by migration from outside the U.S. as well as births outnumbering deaths in the two counties.

Georgia saw the net addition of 73,766 people over the year as the state saw a net increase 50,632 new residents moving from other states plus a net international migration of 6,997 people, while the number of births outnumbered deaths by 15,993. With these changes, Georgia’s population stands at 10,799,566, an increase of 0.69% over 2020.

Fulton County remains the most populous county in Georgia at 1,065,334, followed by Gwinnett (964,546) Cobb (766,802), and DeKalb (757,718).

Regarding employment, Fulton County continues to be home to the state’s largest employment base as of June 2021 with 872,714 jobs in the county, followed by Cobb (365,773), and Gwinnett (357,896), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As of July 1, 2021, Taliaferro County, Georgia, was home to the smallest population of Georgia’s 159 counties, with a population of 1,558 having a net gain of one person over the year. A total of 50 counties in the state lost population between 2020 and 2021.

County population factors

Changes in total population are due to a combination of factors that include natural change (births minus deaths), net international migration, and domestic migration.

Forsyth County recorded the largest net domestic migration among Georgia counties, with a net increase of 6,755, while net international migration totaled 232. Births outnumbered deaths in the county by 508.

Most of Gwinnett County’s growth was due to births outnumbering deaths by 4,750, while net domestic migration added 681 residents and international migration saw the population increase by 1,167.

For Cherokee County, domestic migration accounted for almost all of the county’s population increase (6,065), while international migration added a net of 93 more people and births outnumbered deaths by 456.

In contrast, DeKalb County saw net domestic migration reduce its population by -11,455 that was partially offset by net international migration of 1,506 and births outnumbering deaths by 3,915.

Fulton County recorded a net loss of -7,786 people due to domestic migration out of the county, partially offset by net international migration of 1,236 and births outnumbering deaths by 2,726.

Net domestic migration includes net migration between counties in Georgia as well as migration between Georgia and other states in the U.S.

Net international migration includes the international migration of both native and foreign-born populations.  Specifically, it includes: (a) the net international migration of the foreign born, (b) the net migration between the United States and Puerto Rico, (c) the net migration of natives to and from the United States, and (d) the net movement of the Armed Forces population between the United States and overseas.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Georgia maintains low unemployment rate, more job growth in April

 Georgia nonfarm jobs, January 2020 - April 2022

Data seasonally adjusted. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Georgia remained at its historical low unemployment rate of 3.1% in April, the same as in March. Since June of last year, the state’s unemployment rate has stayed consistently below 4% as employment in the state grew and the number of people unemployed buy actively seeking work continued to fall.

The state added 19,000 nonfarm jobs in April, slightly more than the revised 18,200 jobs recorded for March.

Unemployment in Georgia

The state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in April, while the state’s unemployment rate decreased from 4.3% in April 2021 to 3.1% in April 2022.

The number of people unemployed but actively seeking work fell to 160,885. Compared to a year ago, the number of unemployed persons declined by 60,472. The number of people currently unemployed in Georgia is near the unemployment level recorded in May 2001 when the state’s labor force was more than 1 million people smaller. In May 2001, the state’s unemployment rate was 3.7%.

Nonfarm jobs

Since April 2021, Georgia has seen the addition of 252,000 jobs (5.6%), although state and local government employment growth remains muted.

The private sector in the state added 17,200 jobs in April, while the government sector added 1,800 jobs. Over the past 12 months, private sector employment has grown by 246,600 (6.4%), while government employment has risen by 5,400 (0.8%).

Industries recording job losses over the month included construction (-1,400) and manufacturing (-1,200).

Job growth was most pronounced in wholesale trade (7,900), and professional and business services (6,000).

Over the most recent 12-month period, industries seeing the largest numerical increases include professional and business services (64,100), leisure and hospitality (41,700), retail trade (24,800), and health care and social assistance (19,600).

One area that remains a concern is construction, which posted a job loss of 1,400 jobs in April with industry employment 1,000 jobs below its level in April 2021. After showing solid growth in 2021, the industry has seen a decline of 6,000 jobs since January.

Atlanta, Athens, and Savannah areas

Within the state, three areas are posting significant job growth rates over the past year.

The Atlanta metro area added 11,000 of the state’s 19,000 new jobs in April. Over the past year, the Atlanta area job market has grown faster than the state as a whole, with the metro area adding 183,000 jobs, and accounting for more than 70% of the state’s job growth.

While the state has seen a 5.6% growth in new jobs since April 2021, the Atlanta metro area job market has increased by 6.6%.

Athens-Clarke County metro area added 500 new jobs in April. Over the past 12 months, the area has seen an increase of 6,200 jobs, or 6.5%.

The Savannah metro area job market declined by 900 jobs in April, its first monthly decline since October. Over the past 12 months, the Savannah area has seen the addition of 11,400 new jobs for a growth rate of 6.1%.

All three job markets are now larger than in February 2020, before the pandemic-related job downturn.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Job openings, hires for Georgia decline in March

 Job openings in Georgia, January 2021 - March 2022

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Georgia saw the number of job openings decrease by 33,000 between February and March, after seasonal adjustment, according to new information released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of openings declined from 435,000 in February to 402,000 in March. Compared to a year ago, the number of job openings remain much higher than the 289,000 openings posted in March 2021.

March marked the largest decline in the number of job openings in the state since March 2021, when the state saw a one-month net loss of 75,000 openings as Covid concerns prompted companies to scale back their hiring plans.

The number of people hired in March 2022 declined by 45,000 from February. The number of hires dropped from 316,000 in February to 271,000 in March. In March 2021, the number of hires stood at 215,000.

Both the decline in the number of job openings and the drop in the number of hires were a dramatic turnaround from the figures in February when the state posted increases of 35,000 openings and 53,000 hires for the month.

Separations, quits, and layoffs and discharges

There was little change in the number of separations, as well as in the number of people quitting their jobs between February and March. While the number of separations increased slightly, and the number of people quitting their jobs declined slightly, neither figure was statistically significant according to BLS.

Similarly, the number of layoffs and discharges rose slightly over the month but not to the level that was deemed statistically significant.

Compared to a year ago, the number of separations and the number of quits remained well above the numbers recorded in March 2021. At that time, the number of separations was posted as 197,000 compared to 253,000 in March 2022, while the number of people quitting their jobs was 131,000 compared to 177,000 in March 2022.

The number of layoffs and discharges were virtually the same in March 2021 and March 2022.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Inflation remains elevated in the Atlanta area for April 2022

 CPI-U Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA

12-month percentage change, 1981 through 2021

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Consumer prices in the Atlanta area (CPI-U for Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA) rose 1.9% for the two months ending in April 2022, according to newly released information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The two-month increase in prices for the March-April period were slightly less than the 2.3% increase recorded in the January-February period.

Over the 12 months ending in April, consumer prices rose by 10.8% in the Atlanta area. Consumer prices in the Atlanta area were slightly above the 10.6% increase recorded for the 12-month period ending in February and remain at the highest level recorded for the Atlanta area since 1981.

For the United States, consumer prices rose 1.9% for the two months ending in April and increased 8.3% over the past 12 months.

Atlanta area prices

Food prices increased 2.2% for the two months ending in April and have risen 9.3% over the past 12 months reaching the largest 12-month increase since 1981. Costs for food at home increased 3.1% over the past two months, while costs for food away from home increased 1.1%.

Energy prices rose 7.6% for the two months ending in April with gasoline prices increasing 14.3%. Over the past year, energy costs have risen 23.5%, while gasoline prices have moved up 40.2%.

The prices for all items less food and energy increased 1.2% for the two months ending in April and 9.8% over the past 12 months. Notably, costs for shelter in the Atlanta area increased 2.0% over the past two months and have increased 9.9% over the past year, the largest 12-month increase for the shelter index since 1982.

Real earnings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not publish inflation-adjusted hourly earnings for the Atlanta area but does produce information for the nation based on national data.

For the one-month period ending in April, real average hourly earnings for all employees declined by 0.1%. This result stems from an increase of 0.3% in average hourly earnings combined with an increase of 0.3% in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

Real average hourly earnings decreased 2.6%, seasonally adjusted, from April 2021 to April 2022. The change in real average hourly earnings combined with a decrease of 0.9% in the average workweek resulted in a 3.4% decrease in real average weekly earnings over this period.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Atlanta area private sector employment breaks 2.6 million mark, unemployment rate unchanged in March

 Atlanta area private sector jobs, January 2019 - March 2022

Private sector employers in the Atlanta metro area posted more than 2.6 million jobs in March, according to newly released information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the past 12 months, private sector employment grew by 173,000 jobs, and the area posted nearly 75,000 more jobs than it had shown in February 2020, before the beginning of Covid-related cutbacks and shutdowns.

For the month, the Atlanta area added 14,500 jobs, combined private and public sectors before seasonal adjustment, while the unemployment rate remained at 3.2%, the same as in February.

Professional and business services added 3,000 jobs over the month and rose by 46,900 over the year.

The leisure and hospitality sector grew by 2,100 jobs in March, while job growth over the 12-month period totaled 28,800, an increase of more than 11.5%. Within the sector, jobs in food services and drinking places added 1,500 jobs over the month and 19,000 jobs over the past year.

Sectors of continued concern

Two sectors that remain worrisome is construction and other services. Construction added 800 jobs in March. For past 12 months, the sector added 1,900 jobs.

Atlanta area construction jobs, January 2019 - March 2022

Other services saw jobs grow by 1,200 over the month. Despite adding 6,000 jobs over the previous 12 months, the sector remains 4,400 jobs short of where it stood prior to the Covid period.

Atlanta area other services jobs, January 2019 - March 2022

These two sectors’ slow growth with construction jobs just now reaching their pre-Covid levels and other services remaining below may indicate concern on the part of employers as to whether the overall economy will continue its long-term upward trend. Other services includes repair and maintenance jobs, as well as membership association jobs. Employment in these categories can be a good indicator of employers’ intentions and willingness to commit funds to longer-term projects.

(Charts from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)