Thursday, January 26, 2017

Georgia’s job creation machine continues to slow due to job slowdown outside the Atlanta metro area

Georgia 12-month percentage change in nonfarm jobs. seasonally adjusted, 2014-2016

Despite upbeat messages from the Georgia Department of Labor, Georgia’s December 2016 nonfarm employment count only equaled its 2015 job growth and fell below the levels set in December 2013 and 2014, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In December, Georgia added 5,900 jobs, seasonally adjusted, the same as in December 2015. Before seasonal adjustment, net jobs dropped by 9,700. In December 2015, the state lost only 2,100 jobs before seasonal adjustment.

As a result, Georgia’s 12-month net increase in seasonally adjusted 103,300 net new jobs with a job growth rate of 2.4 percent, still higher than the national average at 1.5 percent, but the slowest job increase recorded in the state since 2013.

Unemployment

As a result of the slowdown in new job creation, even as the state’s labor force grew, the state’s unemployment rate in December was virtually unchanged over the year.

In December 2016, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 5.4 percent compared to a 5.5 percent rate in December 2015, a statistically insignificant difference.

Over the past year, the state added 27,767 people to its labor force, and the number of unemployed grew by 10,648, not seasonally adjusted.

Atlanta Metro Area

The slowdown in job growth was concentrated outside the Atlanta metro area.

In December 2016, the Atlanta metro area added 4,500 jobs, seasonally adjusted and accounted for three-fourths of the state’s net job growth.

Over the year, the Atlanta’s area growth rate reached 2.7 percent, slightly below 2016’s rate of 2.8 percent. For the year, the Atlanta metro area added 70,500 jobs, about the same number of jobs as in 2015.

Other Metro Areas in Georgia

Unfortunately, the state continues to acknowledge the problem of slowing job growth outside the Atlanta metro area.

Three metro areas in Georgia added fewer than 300 net new jobs over the past 12 months. Dalton added 200 jobs over the year, Valdosta added 100, and Hinesville actually has lost 100 jobs since December 2015.

While BLS does not publish a number for nonmetro nonfarm jobs in the state, with the Atlanta and Savannah metro areas accounting for three-fourths of the state’s new jobs and the smaller metros suffering, it is fair to say that the rural parts of the state are suffering at least to the same degree as the small metro areas.

Unless conditions change by an influx of new jobs into the rural and small metro areas, the Atlanta area will continue to be a mecca for state residents looking to escape dead-end careers, and the state will be steadily transformed as economic power (leading to political power) continues to concentrate in the Atlanta area.

Nonfarm Employment December 2016  /  12-months ending in December 2016
(Seasonally Adjusted. Preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Statewide Georgia   5,900      /   103,300
Albany                          -200  /    1,000
Athens                       -1,400  /    1,700
Atlanta                        4,500  /  70,500
Augusta                             0  /   4,800
Brunswick                     200  /      500
Columbus                      800  /    1,900
Dalton                             0    /      200
Gainesville                    600  /     2,100
Hinesville                     -100  /     -100
Macon                          -200  /      700
Rome                            -100  /      400
Savannah                    1,100  /    6,800
Valdosta                       -400  /       100


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Anger over University of Georgia pay policy is creating an opening for organized labor at UGA


Resentment over how the University of Georgia has handled changes to its overtime policy has created an opening for United Campus Workers, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America, who are helping UGA employees angered by the recent changes that slashed their take-home paychecks in December.

Problems began when UGA reclassified 3,000 of its employees from exempt to nonexempt to comply with changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was due to go into effect December 1.

Switching these employees from the university’s monthly payroll to a biweekly paycheck resulted in employees being paid for only half of month in November even though deductions such as health insurance premiums were taken for the full month leaving employees with very small paychecks prior to Christmas.

Employees have been quoted as complaining about struggling to cover their living expenses and needing to cash in vacation leave to make up for the shortfall. Many UGA staff have low salaries that make it difficult for them to save money for unexpected emergencies such as suddenly losing a half month’s pay.

While other Georgia public universities have needed to make similar classification changes, they have had a smoother transition. Georgia Tech has been repeatedly cited as an example on how the process should have been occurred.

The damage to morale at UGA, which was already low due to tight budgets, is creating an opportunity for a labor organizing effort.

Increasingly, labor unions are finding more success at organizing government workers than those in the private sector.

Nationally, public-sector workers have a union membership rate (35.2 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.7 percent).

UCW-CWA has been focused on campuses in Tennessee, but according to the Athens, Ga., Flagpole, one of its organizers, Tom Smith, is helping the University of Georgia employees survey their fellow workers on their views towards the change where 3,000 UGA employees were switched from monthly to biweekly paychecks.

Not surprisingly, most of the comments in the survey were negative, and it is likely UCW-CWA will see this as an opening to begin an underground organizing effort at UGA.

Complicating the situation, the new FLSA rule has been put on hold by a federal judge in Texas, meaning it is unclear whether UGA needs to reclassify the 3,000 employees, which is adding to staff confusion and uncertainty.

No doubt, UGA President Jere Morehead hopes that staff unhappiness will fade in the new year, since most employees’ annual pay will remain unchanged, and they will receive three paychecks during two of the next twelve months.


While the pay policies will eventually sort themselves out, the bad feelings will remain and give UCW-CWA an opening to begin quietly organizing UGA staff under the radar.