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.