Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Shelter-in-place orders hit Georgia’s younger workers hardest and calls into question whether they need to change careers

Although Georgia has begun to re-open its businesses, the effects of the state’s shelter-in-place instructions will remain for some time.

While it is true that everyone felt the effects of the order because they could not participate in normal activities such as going out to eat or attending concerts, younger workers were especially vulnerable both because they could not participate in their normal activities as well as the fact that many of the jobs lost because of businesses closing impacted younger workers more than the overall population.

At the end of December, almost 398,000 people were employed in food services and drinking establishments in the state including everything from full-service restaurants to fast-food and bars.

In addition, nearly 52,000 people were employed in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry in Georgia. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines this industry as including performing arts (theater, music), sports teams, museums, and recreational activities (golfing, fitness centers, marinas, etc.).

Together, these two groups constitute 449,000 workers or more than 11% of the state’s employment.

Occupations filled with younger workers

While data at the state level is not available, we know that many of the jobs in the industries mentioned above were held by younger workers. 

For example, BLS has produced information showing the average age of workers by occupation and many of the jobs in the two industries have some of the youngest median age workers of all industries in the U.S. To give some perspective, 42.3 was the median age of all workers.

Median worker age, 2019:

·       Entertainment attendants, median age 25.6
Food preparation and serving workers, median age 26.3
Waiters and waitresses, median age 26.6
Cashiers, median age 27.2
Parking lot attendants, median age 28.2
Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks, median age 29.1
Dishwashers, median age 29.8
Automotive and watercraft service attendants, median age 30.2
Athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers, median age 30.6
Bartenders, median age 32.7

For workers, the loss of these jobs, even temporarily and even though many of them are relatively low paying, is significant even with their wages being offset by unemployment insurance.

It is likely that even with reopening of restaurants, etc., there will be fewer customers as some will be reluctant to venture out except for necessities.

While workers will be recalled, some jobs will be lost permanently. The travel, entertainment, and hospitality industries have been large employers in the past, but it is likely that they have a more mooted future.

Younger workers, with many decades ahead of them in the labor force, need to think about switching jobs into industries that may offer better long-term opportunities.

What if there is a second wave of covid 19?

Georgia’s Governor Kemp has given instructions to slowly re-open the state even though the number of cases of the coronavirus continues to grow, albeit at a more moderate pace.

If the reopening of these establishments leads to a second wave of the virus, it may be much harder to enforce a second shelter-in-place especially for younger workers who would not have yet recovered economically from the first order.

The shelter-in-place order most certainly saved lives, and if it prevented a total longer-term shutdown of Georgia's economy, then the economic cost was worthwhile.

But its value should not negate the acknowledgement that for younger workers in vulnerable jobs, the future looks very uncertain, and workers in the travel, entertainment, and hospitality industries need to reassess whether they need to transition to other industries with better long-term job prospects.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Here is how long it took Georgia labor market to recover from previous recessions

  • 2001 Recession. Georgia pre-recession unemployment rate 3.6%, February 2001. Next reached in April 2019

  • 2007-2009 Recession. Georgia pre-recession unemployment rate 4.9%. Next reached in April 2017

Although the current national economic downturn began differently than past recent recessions, if history is any judge, then Georgia will have a long road back to recover the jobs that were most probably lost in April.

The April unemployment report painted a grim picture of the U.S. economy. The nation lost 20,.5 million jobs in April and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7%.

April unemployment data for Georgia will not be available until later in May, but historically Georgia has trended better than the nation when the economy is improving and trended worse than the nation when the economy worsened.

Recession of 2001

Before the 2001 recession, Georgia recorded an unemployment rate of 3.6%, better than the national unemployment rate of 4.2%.

After the recession, Georgia’s unemployment rate topped out at 6.3% in June 2003, and had not moved down to its previous rate when the next recession began in December 2007.

Recession of 2007-2009

At the start of the recession, Georgia recorded an unemployment rate of 4.9%, worse than the national rate of 4.7%.

The U.S. did not see a rate as low as 4.7% until November 2016, and Georgia did not reach its 4.9% rate until April 2017.

In fact, Georgia did not recover its 2001 pre-recession unemployment rate until April 2019, so if history is followed this time, the road to recovery in the state may be a very long one.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Georgia county unemployment jumps in March with 55 counties posting increases in the number of unemployed persons by 25% or more

Number of unemployed people in Georgia, not seasonally adjusted
Unemployment rates rose in March in 156 of Georgia’s 159 counties compared to a year earlier.

Two south central Georgia counties posted the highest unemployment rates in the state. Telfair County posted a March unemployment rate of 10.8%, up from 5.3% in March 2019, followed by nearby Wheeler County at 9%, which rose from 5.6% in the prior year.

Statewide, Georgia recorded an unemployment rate of 4.3%, before seasonal adjustment, up from 3.6% a year earlier. Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed people in the state rose by 40,795 (+22.3%).

The counties recording the lowest unemployment rates in Georgia included Oconee County (3.2%) in the Athens metro area, Hall County (3.4%) in the Gainesville metro area, and Jackson County (3.4%), which has a number of residents working in the Atlanta and Athens metro areas.

In 55 of Georgia’s 159 counties, the number of unemployed persons increased by 25% or more in March compared to a year earlier. In 44 other counties, the number of unemployed increased by 20-24.9% compared to a year ago.

The number of unemployed persons declined in only one county – Terrell County – which posted an unemployment rate of 5.1% compared to 5.4% last year. Talbot County showed no change in the number of unemployed people residing in its county and no change in its unemployment rate at 4.9%.

Counties recording the largest increases in unemployed persons over the past 12 months were all in the Atlanta metro area and included Fulton (+4,789), Gwinnett (+3,427), DeKalb (+3,342), Cobb (+2,965), and Clayton (+1,527). 

Chatham County in the Savannah metro area posted an over-the-year unemployment increase of 1,150 people.