Sunday, March 5, 2017

7 Years after the Great Recession, Georgia is regaining its employment levels

New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that after seven years, Georgia workforce has climbed out of the recession but still has a long way to go to regain its pre-recession levels.

BLS is reporting that Georgia’s employment-population ratio for 2016 was 59.0% as compared to the nation’s ratio of 59.7%. This is the best report for the state since 2009.

Prior to the last recession, Georgia routinely exceeded the employment-population ratio of the nation, but this all ended in 2009 when the state’s ratio fell to 59.1%.

It has taken Georgia from 2009 to 2016 to regain that level of employment.

Chart 1. Employment-Population Ratio, U.S. and Georgia, 
Annual Average 2000-2016
BLS defines the employment-population ratio simply as “the proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population aged 16 years and over that is employed.” It is widely regarded as the best gauge of workforce employment.

In 2016, Nebraska posted the highest ratio at 69.2%, while West Virginia saw the lowest ratio among states at 50.0%.

For Georgia, the increase from 2015 to 2016 was a statistically significant gain of 1.1 percentage points.

The gain represents an increase of 112,000 in the state’s population, with 154,000 more people employed and 21,000 fewer people listed as officially unemployed.

Georgia’s best year was in 2000 when the ratio stood at 66.8%.

Average State Unemployment Rate Declines

At 5.4%, Georgia’s average unemployment rate remains above the U.S. average of 4.9%. This was still an improvement from 2015’s numbers when the state posted an average rate of 6.0%.

In 2016, New Mexico recorded the highest average unemployment rate at 6.7%, while Hawaii had the lowest average rate at 3.0%.

Private Sector Wages Show Growth

As employment recovers, wages in Georgia are recovering also.

In December 2016, the average nonagricultural wage in the private sector in Georgia stood at $24.72 per hour, an increase of $3.35 over the same time period in 2009.

Wage growth in the state has equaled the pace set nationally. In December 2016, the national private sector average wage stood at $25.89 per hour.

Even accounting for inflation, since December 2009, average hourly wages in Georgia have risen by 15.7% while consumer prices have increased an average of 11.8%.