Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Is Atlanta running out of workers?

With the Atlanta region seeing continued employment growth, employers may need to leave jobs unfilled if they cannot find sufficient numbers of qualified workers.



Back in 2008-2009 during the recession, it would have been a question that would get you laughed out of a conference: Is the Atlanta region running out of workers?

From the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2010, the Atlanta area shed more than 200,000 jobs. Since then, the area’s employment has grown by more than 390,000. In October alone, the metro area recorded 32,400 new jobs. 

For the 12 months ending in October, the Atlanta metro area’s 3.5% increase placed it as the largest percentage increase among the nation’s 10 top population centers, beating areas like Dallas and Los Angeles and far outdistancing the nation’s 2% employment increase.At the same time, as impressive as the job creation has been, so far 2015 has seen a net increase of 9,100 fewer jobs compared to the same period in 2014.

Are businesses in the Atlanta area creating fewer new jobs simply because they are running out of good candidates to hire? If so, what options are available to increase the pool of available workers?

Labor Force

Back during the depths of the recession, Atlanta’s labor force (which the government defines as the number of workers employed plus those unemployed but actively seeking work) hit a low of about 2.7 million after climbing steadily over the previous 18 years. The drop off could easily be explained by the large number of workers who, faced with unemployment, chose instead early retirement or just became discouraged and dropped out of the labor force.

It was expected that as the economy improved, those workers would rejoin the labor force. Since that low point, labor force for the Atlanta metro area has grown much slower than the number of new jobs. From 2010 to 2012, about 102,000 people were added to the area’s labor force. Since then, only another 27,000 have been added in the past 30 months.



The slow growth in labor force is not confined to Georgia. Looking forward, a recent federal government report anticipates that rate of growth in the nation’s labor force will continue to decline. From 1994 to 2004, the nation’s labor force grew by 12.5%. The government now expects the U.S. labor force to grow by only 5.0% from 2014 to 2024.

Population is not an issue in the Atlanta metro area as the region continues to add people. The Census Bureau estimates that between 2010 and 2014, the Atlanta metro area has added more than 327,000 new residents.

What happened to the rest? Economists speculate that the lack of growth in labor force numbers can be attributed to two simultaneous trends. With an ageing population, it is thought that older workers are retiring, while younger folks choose school over work believing that more education will make them more valuable to employers in the future. It is also possible that some discouraged workers forced out of the labor force from the recession have given up and will never return.

There are some anecdotal information in support of these theories. In addition, the recession saw a spike in the number of workers applying for Social Security disability. Those on permanent disability may represent an additional group of former workers who plan to never return to employment.

Migration within Georgia

While the Atlanta area has been “red hot” in terms of job growth, the same cannot be said for the rest of the state. Smaller metro areas, such as Albany and Brunswick, actually continue to record employment losses. The Albany area employs about the same number of workers as it did in the early 1990's, while Brunswick and Valdosta have reported no net job growth in the past 10 years.

Could these workers be persuaded to move to the Atlanta area? It is possible, although it would be mainly younger workers and the more educated who would be most likely to seek out new opportunities leaving behind an older, less educated workforce in those areas.

While it is certain that these areas would like to attract businesses to relocate to their areas, increasingly, it appears that large metro areas provide benefits not available in smaller communities. These benefits include a large number of potential customers, easy interaction with both suppliers and customers, and improved social and cultural infrastructure (schools, hospitals, museums, music venues, etc.) that are simply not available without a large population.

Even if Atlanta was able to attract more workers from these three smaller metro areas, their combined labor forces are less than 175,000. Moving even 10% of these to Atlanta would boost the Atlanta metro by only 17,000 or so. It would take migration from all parts of Georgia to significantly boost the Atlanta area’s labor force, which already accounts for approximately half of the state’s labor force.

Migration from other states

The Atlanta region has had particular success in encouraging people from other parts of the U.S. to relocate to the Atlanta region. Much of the area’s growth in the 1990's came from people moving from other southeastern states, as well as the Northeast and Midwest, to Georgia.

Some of the causes of this previous migration might be hard to re-create. Previous so-called “rust belt” states are also experiencing recovering economies so that people are not as desperate to move from their home areas. While Georgia has previously exploited its role as a “right-to-work” state, other states, such as Indiana and Michigan have now passed similar laws. West Virginia may be the next state to remove this incentive for companies to relocate to Georgia.

Finally, the return migration of African-Americans back to southern states has occurred and is not likely to be repeated in such a large scale in the future.

Migration from outside the U.S.

Unlike the Northeast, Georgia did not greatly benefit from an influx of European immigrants in the 19th Century. A report from the Pew Research Center indicates that from 2009 to 2014, the number of Mexicans in the United States actually declined by a net of 130,000. The report speculates that “the slow recovery of the U.S. economy after the Great Recession may have made the U.S. less attractive to potential Mexican migrants and may have pushed out some Mexican immigrants as the U.S. job market deteriorated. In addition, stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border (Rosenblum and Meissner, 2014), may have contributed to the reduction of Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. in recent years.”

As immigrants find better opportunities closer to home, they are less likely to search for jobs in the U.S. Those immigrants who are more likely to come to the U.S., such as Syrians, Iraqis, and others whose own homelands are being disrupted by war, are finding it harder to emigrate as the U.S. strengthens its barriers to entry.

As state leaders speak about in discouraging the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia, the result might not only dampen Middle Eastern refugees’ enthusiasm for relocating to Georgia, it may also give pause to immigrants from other parts of the world who might feel that Georgia is not a welcoming location for any non-U.S. citizens regardless of religion or national origin.

Solutions

Labor Force: Enticing people back into the labor force may take a combination of offering higher wages and providing social support (such as daycare, improved transportation, etc.) to make work both possible and profitable. Other possibilities include allowing more work to be done at home. Education, often offered by policymakers as a solution, might have long-term effects, but cannot quickly solve the current deficits in the labor force.

Migration within Georgia: The Georgia Department of Labor can make information about job availability in the Atlanta area more readily available to residents in other parts of the state. There may need to communicate the advantages of moving to the Atlanta area, even to the point of helping people understand their options for housing, transportation, etc.

Migration from other states: The Georgia Department of Economic Development could begin a campaign similar to their corporate relocation and expansion efforts but one targeted at workers rather than companies. By focusing on certain skillsets that are most in demand, the agency could encourage both new workers and existing workers to consider relocating to Georgia for their career futures.

Migration from outside the U.S.: Georgia needs to make clear that citizens from other nations with legal work visas are welcomed in the state and help encourage conditions that help immigrants make an easier transition to living in Georgia.

Finally, a less desirable solution to the labor force problem is to have the state’s economy slow down so that the state’s businesses will have less need for additional workers. While it is unlikely that the state would cause such a slowdown deliberately, Georgia is very tied to the national economy and another national recession will certainly impact the state’s business community. Remembering that the previous recession ended six years ago, it is certainly possible that another downturn will develop, which will relieve pressure on Georgia’s slow-growth labor force.

Without any of these solutions, Georgia’s employment numbers may fade on their own as businesses fail to find qualified applicants and leave jobs unfilled.







Monday, November 23, 2015

Georgia posts very strong October employment numbers

Georgia reported 29,000 new nonfarm jobs in October 2015, its strongest one-month showing since February 2011, according to new seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The one-month increase was the fourth largest among all states trailing only California (41,200), Florida (35,200), and Ohio (30,800).

“We saw the state gain 29,000 jobs, which by the way, is much higher than we have been averaging,” according to Georgia State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “We have been averaging around 16,000 jobs during that same time period.”

The state’s overall strength in October was due to hiring in several sectors including Professional and Business Services (6,400), Retail (5,100), and Government (4,500).
The new employment compares favorably with an increase of 20,500 jobs posted for October 2014, and contrasts with the weak showing earlier in the spring and summer. BLS also revised its data for September, adding 4,400 more jobs to the preliminary report for Georgia, which boosted the state’s September net increase to 13,500.

Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 5.7 percent in October, a drop of 1.1 percentage points from October 2014. The good news of a declining unemployment rate was tempered by the fact that the drop was partially attributable to a decline of 6,076 people in the labor force compared to the same time last year.

Over the past 12 months, the state’s nonfarm employment has grown by 97,100 jobs, which translated to a 2.3 percent annual increase and outpaced the nation’s 2.0 percent increase. The latest jobs picture fell below the numbers posted in October 2014 when the state’s then 12-month increase of 143,900 jobs translated to a 3.5 percent growth rate.

Over the most recent 12-month period, increases were notable in Professional and Business Services (20,500), Leisure and Hospitality (17,200), Education and Health Services (16,100), and Retail (15,600).

The Atlanta area continues to be the state’s job engine, contributing two-thirds of the state’s net new jobs, adding 19,300 jobs over the month. Since October 2014, the metro area has increased by 87,800 jobs, representing 90 percent of the state’s job growth. This translates to a 12-month increase of 3.5 percent.

In 2014, the strong growth in October was followed by increases at only half that rate in November and December. It remains to be seen if the pattern in 2015 will see a repeat with the most significant hiring occurring earlier in the holiday season (October) followed by smaller boosts to job growth in the last two months of the year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Education in Georgia: The first test results are not encouraging

Georgia has released its first set of test results from its new Georgia Milestones Assessment System.


The tests are meant to give educators and parents a better idea as to how well students are being prepared for their futures. The new tests replace the state’s old Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT).

According to Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods, “Under the CRCT, Georgia had some of the lowest expectations in the nation for its students. Too many students were labeled as proficient when, in reality, they had not fully mastered the standards and needed additional support. That hurt our kids, who need to be competitive with others across the country and hurt our teachers by making it difficult for them to have a true picture of the academic strengths and weakness of their students.”

While it is commendable that Georgia take a stronger interest in preparing its students for a competitive global workplace, the results from this first set of tests are not encouraging.

Using four levels of performance, students needed to score in one of the top two levels to show they were ready to advance to the next grade. For those subjects showing the best results (biology, U.S. history, and economics/business) at the high school level, fewer than 40 percent of students were ready to be promoted to the next grade level.

In mathematics, 38 to 39 percent of students across the state in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades were ready to be promoted. Unfortunately, this dropped down 34 percent when high school students were tested on their knowledge of coordinate algebra, and dropped to 33 percent when they were tested on analytic geometry.
Source: Georgia Department of Education

In English and language arts, the results were slightly better with 38 percent of 9th grade students passing literature and composition and 35 percent of high school students passing American literature and composition.

Employers consistently complain that new workers lack the skills needed to be productive. Companies are reluctant to spend the money to train workers knowing that once trained, these same workers can leave for better paying jobs.

That leaves it up to the state and individuals. If Georgia wants to compete in a global economy, the state has two choices. It can better prepare its future workforce for jobs that will demand greater verbal and mathematical skills, or it can continue to rely on attracting better trained workers from out of state as it has over the past decades. For example, in Atlanta, the engine of Georgia’s job growth, only a little more than half of its residents were born in Georgia.

The problem with this second approach is that it must then compete with the other 49 states, as well as other nations, to both attract companies to the state as well as people to staff those positions when they come to Georgia. The result can be a very expensive form of economic development; more expensive than building a world-class education system.

The role between education and economic development is clear. As a first step that recognizes the importance of education to the state’s economy, the Georgia Department of Education has hired an economic development specialist to work with business executives. It is a good start, but preparing students for those jobs by giving them the needed skills is vital.

Now that we have a more honest assessment of future employees’ skills, it is up to everyone in the state to choose whether to take the challenge or hope for the continued importation of skilled labor to meet Georgia employers’ future needs.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Work-related deaths and injuries on the rise in Georgia: A silent epidemic

Despite a 26 percent increase in one year, there has been practically no focus on the rising number of workers in Georgia who are dying and being injured at work.

In 2014, 148 workers died during job-related activities in the state, an increase of 31 over the year, according to preliminary reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, the number of deaths rose by 94, an increase of 2 percent.


Violence on the job was a key factor in the rise in Georgia, with the number of work-related deaths due to intentional injury more than doubling over the year from 15 to 32. The number of work-related suicides rose from 6 to 14.

The sharp rise in violence contrasts with a very low increase in the number of roadway incidents that resulted in deaths, which have been the main cause of work-related fatalities in past years. In 2014, road deaths accounted for 36 fatalities, up by only 3 over 2013.

Other leading causes of work-related deaths in 2014 included falls (26 deaths), being struck by object or equipment (15 deaths), and nonroadway incidents involving motorized equipment (11 deaths).

Of the 148 total fatalities, 134 workers were employed in private industry while 14 deaths occurred to workers employed by governments in the state. This compares to the 117 deaths recorded in 2013, of which 108 were in private industry and 9 were in government.

For 2014, the increase in fatalities occurred among men, as the number of men dying on the job increased from 103 in 2013 to 136 in 2014. Deaths among female workers actually declined over the year from 14 to 12.

Nonfatal injuries and illnesses

Georgia workers suffered nonfatal injuries and illnesses at a rate of 2.9 per 100 equivalent full-time workers in 2014. While this remains below the national average of 3.2, it is an increase over 2013 when the state recorded a rate of 2.8.

In contrast, the U.S. recorded a decrease in the rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses, dropping from 3.3 per 100 equivalent full-time workers in 2013 to 3.2 in 2014.

Why the increase and why is it being ignored?

While Georgia focuses on job growth, the growing number of injuries and deaths goes unreported in the media and the state chooses not to highlight this growing epidemic.

In part this may be due to the state’s decision several years ago to move the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses and Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from the Georgia Department of Labor to the state’s Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner. This office may not recognize the importance of the data or may choose to play down numbers, which they may feel reflect badly on the state's reputation.

While individual deaths are sometimes, but not always, reported in the media, it is hard for the casual reader or viewer to see the aggregated result or understand the trend. Nonfatal injuries and illnesses are much less likely to receive media attention, so they often remain "under the radar."

A harder question to answer is why are more people in Georgia getting injured and dying on the job?

Some of the increase in fatal and nonfatal injuries can be attributed to more workers returning to work after the recession. It is expected that with more people on the job, there are more possibilities for work-related injuries. Yet, Georgia’s job growth is only equal to the national average, while the number of fatal and nonfatal injuries and illnesses is growing faster than the U.S.

Even as the numbers grow, Georgia’s nonfatal injuries and illness rate is staying below the national average. Some of this lower rate reflects the state’s mix of industries, as the state moves towards an increasingly white-collar economy. Office jobs tend to have fewer serious injuries then those in traditional manufacturing, construction, and transportation industries.

More work needs to be done to determine why Georgia’s work-related deaths and injuries are increasing, but if the numbers are simply ignored, than there is no incentive to work to lower them.

For workers and their families, each person who goes to work each day expects to come home alive and uninjured. For more Georgia families, that appears to be a false expectation.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Atlanta ranks 2nd in percentage job growth among largest metro areas in September

The Atlanta metro area added 71,500 net new jobs over the past 12 months, according to newly released seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The area’s job growth translated into an annual increase of 2.8 percent, falling second only to Dallas among the largest metro areas in the nation. The Dallas area reported a 3.2 percent annual growth rate.

The growth translated into more new jobs added over the year for all but three other metro areas in the U.S. in September. Other metro areas with large over-the-year job increases included Los Angeles (+133,300), Dallas (+107,000), and New York (+104,500). The District of Columbia-Maryland-Virginia metro area came in below Atlanta, posting annual job growth of 62,800.

Atlanta Metro Area

The Atlanta area’s 2.8 percent growth compares to Georgia’s overall 2.0 percent growth rate. For the 12 months ending in September, the nation as a whole saw job growth at 2.0 percent.

While the Atlanta area added only 2,700 new jobs in September, BLS revised the area’s job growth in August upwards from a preliminary report of 600 jobs to a revised addition of 4,100 jobs.

Over the three months ending in September, the Atlanta area added 22,800 new nonfarm jobs while the rest of the state lost 1,000 jobs resulting in a net state gain of 21,800 jobs.

As a comparison, for the same three months in 2014, the Atlanta area created 24,800 jobs while the state posted 37,200 new nonfarm jobs.

Other Metro Areas in Georgia

Outside Atlanta, the Augusta area posted the fastest growing job market over the past year, rising by 2.5 percent, an increase of 5,600 nonfarm jobs over the year. Savannah showed a 2.4 percent increase, adding 4,100 jobs since last September.

The Hinesville area posted the largest job loss among Georgia metro area, losing 2.0 percent (-400 jobs). Albany lost a total of 1.8 percent (-1,100) jobs, while Valdosta reported a loss of 1.6 percent (-900 jobs).


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Georgia’s modest job growth places it 7th among states in September

Georgia continued its modest employment growth in September adding 9,100 new jobs over the month. The state’s unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent compared to 6.9 percent, although this drop was partially due to the number of people dropping out of the labor force.

For the 12 months ending in September, the state has grown by 84,200 nonfarm jobs, an increase of 2 percent, the same percentage increase as for the nation. This placed the state seventh in the number of net new jobs over the year trailing behind California, Florida, Texas, New York, North Carolina, and Washington.
Georgia’s slowing job growth can be seen by comparing its most recent three-month average to the same period in 2014. Over the past three months, the state has produce an average of 7,300 jobs each month compared to 12,400 jobs the state was producing for the same time period last year.

One surprise this month was that August’s low initial job growth number (+2,200) was left unchanged in the monthly revisions.

Industries

September saw some severe changes in the fortunes of several industries both up and down. For example, manufacturing, which has been a slow growing segment, added 2,100 jobs over the month. Other industries that saw a sizeable pick-up in employment included government (+5,200) and education and health services (+3,200).

Professional and business services, which has been the state’s traditional growth engine slowed markedly in September, losing 3,400 jobs, while retail dropped another 1,900 employees.
Much of this may be attributed to seasonal adjustment factors that may play out over the next few months, making the three-month averages a better gauge of economic activity.

Still it remains a concern that professional and business services that has been such a mainstay of the state and the Atlanta area’s economy are showing such slow growth. For the three months ending in September, business and professional services have added an average of 300 jobs each month compared to the 3,600 job average the industry was posting at this same time in 2014.

Similarly, leisure and hospitality establishments are adding jobs at a rate of 700 per month compared to 1,800 per month for the same three months in 2014.

Education and health services hiring has also slowed with the industry adding an average of 800 jobs in each of the past three months compared to 1,700 jobs per month from July through September 2014.

Georgia 3-month average change in jobs for selected industries, July – September 2015, in thousands
Industry
Average monthly change in jobs 
July – September 2014
Average monthly change in jobs 
July – September 2015
All nonfarm industries
12.4
7.3



Retail
0.9
-0.5
Information
-0.4
0.3
Professional and business services
3.6
0.3
Education and health services
1.7
0.8
Leisure and hospitality
1.8
0.7
Government
0.9
4.0

Unemployment

 Georgia’s over-the-year decline in unemployment rate from 6.9 percent to 5.8 percent reflects a drop in both the number of unemployed (-55,663) as well as a pick-up in the number of people indicating employment (+44,128). The difference is attributable to the 11,535 people who have dropped out of the labor force.

This decline in labor force flies in the face of the general impression that the state’s population continues to grow, which should be resulting in a growing labor force rather than declining. No good explanation has been provided yet on why the state’s labor force continues to decline. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Restaurant workers and the minimum wage: Georgia needs a true fact-finding panel

There continues to be heated discussions over the federal and state minimum wage in Georgia even though the Georgia General Assembly will not convene until January.



The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report shows that in 2014 approximately 119,000 Georgians were paid at or below the federal minimum wage with 57,000 at the minimum wage of $7.25 and another 62,000 paid below it. Together, this represents about 5.5% of the state’s hourly workers.

On WABE’s Closer Look radio program, Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, and Shannayl Connolly with the TM Restaurant Group, outlined their opposition to increases in both the federal and state minimum wage, which currently stand at $7.25 and $5.15 respectively.

The two spokeswomen insisted that the minimum wage should be seen as only an entry level wage. Furthermore, Ms. Bremer asserted that in the Atlanta market, entry level food service workers began at closer to $9.00 per hour implying that the average wage would be much higher for more experienced workers.

Looking at specific occupations, in May 2014 the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that for food preparation and serving occupations in the Atlanta metro area, the average wage was $9.77 per hour.

Of the 16 occupations showing average wages, first line supervisors had the highest average at $14.27, while dishwashers and host and hostesses shared the lowest average rate at $8.62.

Looking at average wages for the occupations, 5 had average rates below $9 per hour, 4 were between $9 and $10, and 7 paid an average of $10 or better.

It is difficult to imagine how entry level wages could begin at $9 in the Atlanta area for five occupations where the average wage is below $9 and four more averaged less than $10.

Table.1. Average hourly wages for selected occupations in food preparation and serving, May 2014
Occupation
Statewide Georgia
Metro Atlanta
Restaurant cooks
$ 10.82
$ 11.41
Short order cooks
9.66
10.22
Fast food cooks
8.72
8.80
Food preparation workers
9.74
9.97
Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
8.52
8.63
Dishwashers
8.59
8.62
Host and hostesses
8.56
8.62
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014

Regarding Ms. Bremer’s assertion that minimum wage jobs were entry level positions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that nationally about half of workers earning at or below the minimum wage were age 25 or older, contradicting the perception that the minimum wage mostly affects teenagers and those just starting out in the labor market. No similar age data are available specifically for Georgia.

Advocates in Georgia continue to push to raise both the state’s and the nation’s minimum wage

The Atlanta Progressive News reports that an “Atlanta People’s Wage Board” met in October to take testimony on raising the minimum wage. While styled after the New York board formed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Atlanta board was strictly an unofficial body wanting to focus attention on increasing the minimum wage rather than a fact-finding panel.

State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) discussed Georgia House Bill 8 that would increase the minimum wage to $15, and eliminate exemptions that allow some workers to be paid below the current minimum wage, such as tipped employees. The Senator indicated that he plans to introduce a companion bill in the Georgia Senate in the next session of the legislature.

HB 8 was introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives by State Rep. Dewey McClain (D-Lawrenceville), who is President of the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, but the bill has not yet received a hearing.


This discussion is sure to continue into the 2016 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly, but the discussion will not be helped if assertions cannot be backed with statistically useful information. 

A true fact-finding panel might shed light on the matter.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Georgia AFL-CIO works to change or defeat TPP

The Georgia AFL-CIO continues to press for changes to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), or failing that, defeat of the current expected 12-nation trade deal.



On Monday, Oct. 5, the union will be asking the Atlanta City Council to pass a resolution, in support of better trade deals. It appears that if the Council approved this resolution, it would place the Council in conflict with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who welcomed the negotiators to Atlanta last week and has generally supported the TPP.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Mayor Reed as saying that “Businesses that engage in exports have a higher chance of survival and they pay higher wages. “At the end of the day, all of this is about folks having a job that gives them some dignity and allows them to support their families.”

The call for a City Council resolution follows the AFL-CIO’s support of protests last week in Atlanta where trade representatives were meeting to try to conclude trade negotiations on the pact supported by the Obama administration.

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, Georgia AFL-CIO’s communications director, told the AJC that he has myriad concerns with the potential deal, namely that it will benefit CEOs and not workers.

“Once TPP passes, it could last indefinitely. And other countries can join it without limit or oversight by the public or Congress,” he said. He fears that TPP “is a global race to the bottom, the bottom in environmental standards, the bottom in labor and wage standards.”

The Obama administration has argued that TPP will help U.S. companies increase exports. In turn, they believe that increased business would result in increased employment for American workers.

It is unclear whether union locals in Georgia support the TPP protestors or whether the Georgia AFL-CIO is acting more on orders from the national AFL-CIO to oppose the trade deal. Last week’s protest in downtown Atlanta did not show a particularly large turnout of union members.

TPP is the nation’s largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993. Much of the present union opposition to TPP stems from what they see as serious job losses due to NAFTA, which they vow to not allow again under TPP.

Nations involved in the current TPP negotiations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam. While China is not part of the current round of negotiations, some fear that China will be added later to the agreement causing loss of more U.S. jobs.

Meanwhile, the trade negotiators themselves are probably less concerned about protests as they struggle to conclude any deal. A number of stumbling blocks over specific issues, including dairy imports and patent protections for pharmaceuticals, continue to delay finalizing details of the trade deal.

The trade talks, which were originally scheduled to conclude on Thursday, have carried over into the weekend. Given these difficulties, it is unlikely that negotiators will be willing to entertain additional modifications to the current trade package.

Assuming that negotiators are able to agree to a final package before leaving Atlanta, the protestors will then need to turn their attention to having Congress to defeat the final agreement.

This will be difficult as TPP was given fast-track status by Congress, meaning that the agreement can be voted either up or down but with very few changes. Fast-track status means that protestors will need to convince a majority of lawmakers to vote down the deal, since they will be unable to amend the final bill.

Asking the Atlanta City Council to approve this draft resolution is one step towards shifting the focus by putting public pressure on lawmakers to defeat the final draft trade deal.




Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Atlanta maintains 4th place in job growth in August

Atlanta grew 4th fastest among the 10 largest metro areas in the U.S. in August, despite adding only 600 jobs over the month according to newly released seasonally adjusted preliminary jobs data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the year, the Atlanta area gained 69,800 new jobs. Ahead of Atlanta in terms of job creation came Los Angeles (+122,400), New York (+116,800), and Dallas (+106,100).

Among the largest metro areas, Dallas recorded the largest percentage gain, up 3.2% followed by Atlanta at 2.8%.

Georgia Metro Areas

In Georgia, the Gainesville area recorded the largest increase in jobs in August, adding 800 new jobs, followed by the Atlanta area, which added 600.

Gainesville and Atlanta areas each grew by 2.8% over the year ending in August, while the Savannah area grew by 2.7%.

Over the year, four metro areas in Georgia recorded decreases in net employment. They include Brunswick (-200), Hinesville (-200), Albany (-700), and Valdosta (-1,100).

A total of five Georgia metro areas are still recording employment counts below where they stood in 2007 before the recession including Albany, Brunswick, Dalton, Rome, and Valdosta.

Friday, September 25, 2015

NLRB attorney explains recent decisions affecting union representation

National Labor Relations Board Region 10 Supervisory Attorney Lisa Henderson gives an update on changes at the NLRB.



On April 14, 2015, the NLRB implemented new procedures to speed up the processing of union representation cases to shorten the time between receiving a petition and holding an election to decide on union representation at a company.

Speaking to the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) Atlanta Chapter on Sept. 24, Ms. Henderson told the group that since the new procedures have begun, the result has been shortened processing times decreasing times from 1/3 to half compared to the old process.  In July, the average was 22 days, in August it dropped to 21 days. This compares to a goal of 42 days on average before the new procedures.

The new procedures also narrow what goes into the official record. At least one employer raised privacy issues concerning the requirement to supply union officials with personal information about employees, including email addresses, home addresses, and personal telephone numbers. In that case, Region 10 considered this issue but felt that the right of the union to have full access to employees outweighed any privacy concerns.

She did not mention that opponents of this decision have offered a bill in Congress, the Employment Rights Act (ERA), to counteract the new procedures.

The NLRB attorney discussed the NLRB’s recent ruling in the Browning-Ferris Industries case where it found that BFI was a joint employer with Leadpoint, the company that supplied employees to BFI to perform various work functions for BFI, including cleaning and sorting of recycled products.

In finding that BFI was a joint employer with Leadpoint, the Board relied on indirect and direct control that BFI possessed over essential terms and conditions of employment of the employees supplied by Leadpoint as well as BFI’s reserved authority to control such terms and conditions.

This ruling overturned the decision of the NLRB region in California, which had previously ruled that no joint-employer status existed at the recycling plant.

Ms. Henderson indicated that the Board felt this new ruling was a return to an older standard that the Board had moved away from rather than the implementation of a new standard. In her opinion, the Board felt that the BFI ruling brought it more in line with modern realities.

Finally, Ms. Henderson addressed NLRB guidance on deferral to grievance arbitration and settlements contained in Memorandum GC 15-02, which was meant to provide guidance to regional offices and the public. While GC 15-02 is both lengthy and complex, it offers a new test for deferring to awards rendered by labor arbitrators in cases also involving alleged violations of Sections 8(a)(1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act and does raise questions as to its implementation and how that might affect arbitrators nationwide.

For more on each of these issues:






Friday, September 18, 2015

Lower unemployment rate hides slowdown in Atlanta job market

Georgia's 5.9% unemployment rate hides the slowdown in the Atlanta area, which saw only 600 new jobs in August. 

Labor force continues to decline

Georgia reported a 5.9% unemployment rate for August, higher than the nation’s average of 5.1%, but still below its rate of 7.1% recorded in August 2014.

The headline rate disguises the slowdown in Georgia’s economy, and specifically in the Atlanta area.

The lower unemployment rate is due to people not participating in the current labor force. Since last August, Georgia has lost 6,137 people from its labor force, while the U.S. has added over 1 million.

Other economic indicators tend to show that the state is gaining population and workers, not losing them, so it is logical to assume that the true number of people who could be included in the labor force is growing at least at the same rate as the nation if not faster.

If the state’s labor force was growing at the same rate as the nation, August’s unemployment rate for Georgia would be at 6.5%.

This rate is more consistent with the evidence showing in the nonfarm jobs report also issued this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nonfarm Employment grows modestly

Georgia recorded a modest 2,200 increase in August and reported 83,200 jobs over the year. The numbers translate into a 2.0% annual increase, slightly below the nation’s 2.1% job creation rate.
Over the past three months, Georgia has averaged 8,600 new jobs each month. As a comparison, the state recorded an average of 39,200 jobs for the comparable period in 2014.

The slowing rate caused Georgia to drop again in the state rankings of job creators. In June, the state was 6th best in the nation, in July it dropped to 8th place, and in August it now stands at 9th position.
In August, states adding more jobs than Georgia over the 12 months included (in order of number of jobs added): California, Florida, Texas, New York, North Carolina, Washington, Michigan, and Massachusetts.

Slowdown in Atlanta MSA offset by higher growth in rest of State


The slower growth rate for the state is directly attributable to the lower rate of job growth in the Atlanta area in August.

Last month, the Atlanta metro area added only 600 of the 2,200 new jobs recorded statewide. This is a remarkable turn for the Atlanta area, which had been the main driver of job growth over most of the previous 11 months.

For the three months ending in August, the Atlanta area lost 2,100 jobs compared to a loss of only 700 jobs for the same period in 2014.

Over the past 12 months, the Atlanta metro area has accounted for 69,800 of the 83,200 new jobs created in Georgia, or almost 84% of the state’s new jobs for an area that is home to almost 61% of the state’s employment.

In the Atlanta area, the noticeable slowdown in August was in the sector that is seen as Atlanta’s growth engine – Professional and Business Services. This sector includes engineering, accounting, and consulting firms; but it also includes employment agencies (temporary and permanent employment), which also showed slowing in August.

It is possible this is a one-month aberration due to a statistical or survey anomaly, but it will be worth watching over the next two months to see if the slowdown continues or will be wiped away by revisions in the data.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Georgia unemployment rate drops, job growth is modest in August

Georgia added 2,200 jobs in August, while the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.9%.



“This is the first time Georgia’s unemployment rate has dropped below six percent since May 2008,” said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “The rate declined as our employers laid off the fewest workers for any month in more than 15 years and continued to create jobs.”

In a YouTube video, Commissioner Butler alluded to the fact that the decline in the rate was due to people dropping out of the labor force rather than people finding jobs. Layoffs decline while a slowdown continues in the number of new jobs being created by companies and government.

Nonfarm employment rose by 2,200 in August, a modest gain compared to the increase of 14,300 jobs in August 2014.

There was good news in the revision of the preliminary count of jobs in July. The July jobs number was revised upward from the preliminary 4,600 jobs to a revised count of 10,500 jobs.

Over the year, the state has added 83,200 jobs, its slowest 12-month increase since 2013.

In 2014, the state was growing faster than the nation, but that has now changed. Georgia’s job growth at 2.0% is slower than the national rate of 2.1% despite recent drops in the price of gasoline, which is putting more money into the pocket of consumers and Georgia businesses, such as Delta Air Lines and UPS.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Effects of Department of Labor's overtime plan more dramatic in Georgia

A new analysis conducted for the National Retail Federation shows that new rules on overtime proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor would particularly affect management and professional employees in low-wage states and in rural areas where income and the cost of living are lower than the national average.



The Athens Banner-Herald is reporting that under the proposal, most individuals making up to $970 a week anywhere in the country would automatically receive overtime pay at time-and-a-half when working more than 40 hours a week, up from the current $455. The Labor Department chose $970 under a formula intended to give overtime to the lowest-paid 40 percent of full-time workers nationwide who currently receive a fixed salary.

But in 10 states – Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas – that dollar figure would bring at least 45 percent of full-time salaried workers under overtime rules. Another eight states – Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia – would see at least 50 percent covered. The figure works out to the intended 40 percent in only one state, Maine.

The salary threshold would also be indexed, raising it to $1,400 by 2017 under one option proposed by the Labor Department. Within three years, only 22 percent of current salaried workers would remain exempt from overtime.

“This proposal has been spun as a way to raise the income of struggling workers but there are places where bankers or stockbrokers could be turned into hourly workers,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said. “The Labor Department has ignored the fact that the cost-of-living varies throughout the country.”

Monday, September 14, 2015

New bioscience training center opens in Social Circle, Ga.

State officials formally marked the grand opening of a new $14 million Georgia Bioscience Training Center on Sep. 10 in Newton County.



Located directly across from the site of Baxalta’s $1 billion biomanufacturing facility in Social Circle, Ga., the training center is designed to meet Baxalta’s workforce training needs and includes flexible space to accommodate the training needs of additional life sciences companies that choose to locate or expand in Georgia. The training center is owned by the State of Georgia and operated by Georgia Quick Start, a division of the Technical College System of Georgia.

“A skilled, professionally trained and qualified workforce is essential for Georgia to usher in a new era of bioscience industry,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “The BioScence Training Center is a showcase destination where biotech prospects and industry groups can see the level of support and training expertise Georgia can provide. Operated by Quick Start, the No. 1 workforce training program in the country, this first-of-its-kind training center offers companies a great opportunity to secure a qualified workforce and offers Georgians resources and support to ensure their success in these high performance jobs.”

“Our employees are the core of this mission,” said senior vice president and head of global operations of Baxalta John Furey. “With Georgia Quick Start’s help, we will continue to attract and train top-talent in the area to join our Baxalta team.”

The facility features custom-made technology that simulates Baxalta’s biomanufacturing processes such as centrifugation, chromatography, nanofiltration and aseptic filling. It also has space for the aseptic production of pharmaceutical-grade clinical samples. Additionally, the training center is equipped to deliver training on a wide range of advanced manufacturing technologies including mechatronics, metrology and process controls.

“This is a significant milestone in Georgia’s growth as a premier location for biomanufacturing, and solidifies the state’s commitment to the life science industry,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr. “To be able to offer biotech companies access to customized training and one-of-a-kind equipment gives us a major competitive advantage in the global marketplace.”

Baxalta was spun off from Baxter International in July. It is currently fighting attempts by Shire PLC, which launched a takeover bid in August.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Federal judge rules against procedures used in Georgia's garnishment law

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that a federal judge ruled that procedures set forth in Georgia’s garnishment law are unconstitutional.



According to the newspaper, the judge ruled that the law is flawed because it doesn’t require creditors to tell debtors that some money — like Social Security benefits, welfare payments and workers’ compensation — is off limits to garnishments. 

When that money is wrongly taken, the law doesn’t require creditors to tell people how to get it back, and it doesn’t provide a timely procedure for determining whether funds should have been exempt, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Marvin H. Shoob wrote.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Tony Strickland after creditors seized his Social Security disability income and his workers’ compensation settlement. He filed his original lawsuit, which was dismissed by a court. He then filed an appeal of that dismissal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which overturned the lower court dismissal allowing for the trial to go forward.  

While the judgment applies only to Gwinnett County, it will likely to affect courts statewide.

Richard Alexander, Gwinnett’s clerk of courts, was named in the suit. Alexander said he will follow the ruling, but does not know what the rest of the state might do.

“Here, we’ve stopped,” he said. “We won’t be sending any more summons. We won’t disburse funds. We’re going to follow the court’s order.”

A spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, which argued in favor of the existing law, said officials are still reviewing the decision and had no comment.

Richard Howe, managing partner of the collection firm Howe & Associates, said he does not think the ruling will stick if the state or Gwinnett decides to appeal. Appellate courts have upheld the existing garnishment law in the past, he said.


A garnishment occurs when a creditor claims that someone has not paid a debt. To collect the money, the creditor can file a lawsuit. If the debtor doesn’t reply within 30 days, an automatic judgment is issued, and wages or assets can be seized.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Georgia Governor asks for "static" count as Obama announces plans to re-settle 10,000 Syrian refugees

Number of new refugees coming to Georgia is unknown.


The New York Times reported on Thursday that President Obama has told administration officials to begin planning for the resettlement of at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. beginning Oct. 1.

The President’s decision comes after Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said on Tuesday that he does not wish to see the number of refugees increasing in Georgia. The governor reportedly told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he wants Georgia’s refugee numbers to remain static at around 2,500 and requested as much to the State Department.

On Wednesday, the governor explained that “We’ll certainly do our share, but we do think they need to do a very good job of making sure that where they place these individuals are places that can absorb them and make it easy on them and easy on the surrounding community." He admitted that the state has no real control over how many refugees the state would take in and said that resettling people is a federal issue.  

The newspaper reported on Tuesday that the governor’s wary approach to the escalating crisis in Syria was echoed by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, typically one of the region’s most forceful advocates of a welcoming policy to immigrants and refugees. He said he needed more time to evaluate the city’s position and that he would likely follow the lead of the Obama administration, which is weighing its options.

“I’m not going to get ahead of the federal government with regards to the Syrian refugee crisis,” he said.

In a briefing, Josh Earnest, press secretary to the President, said that the United States would accept at least 10,000 refugees in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Other administration officials believe the total number of refugees could rise to 100,000 from the present 70,000. Not all of the 30,000 additional refugees would come from Syria. Mr. Earnest said this was a “misunderstanding” of Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks.

Humanitarian officials have repeatedly disputed the idea that Georgia is taking in more than its fair share of refugees.