Sunday, October 24, 2021

Job openings and quits headed for a record year in Georgia


Employers are advertising job opportunities in Georgia even as the number of people quitting their jobs reaches a record while the actual number of filled positions continues to grow but at a slower pace.

Number of people quitting their job in Georgia

(January 2011 to August 2021, seasonally adjusted)

Georgia set new state records for the number of people who chose to quit their jobs and for the number of job openings posted by employers, according to newly released information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In August, 192,000 workers in Georgia quit their jobs, the largest single month number since the series began in 2000, putting Georgia on track for a record number of employees quitting their jobs in calendar 2021.

Georgia is on track to record the largest number of people choosing to leave their employment since the series began in 2000. For the first eight months of 2021, the number of job quitters has already reached 1,256,000 compared to 1,418,000 for all of 2018. 

The number of people quitting their jobs is a statistic watched by economists, as BLS explains, “Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee. Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs.” 

A similar story is being told in the number of job openings, which also set a record in August. Georgia employers posted 394,000 job openings as of the last day of August, the highest one-month level since the series began in 2000. 

As with the number of people quitting their jobs, the number of job openings are set to reach a calendar year record. Prior to this year, 2019 saw the largest number of openings at 2,787,000 over 12 months. So far in 2021, employers have posted 2,706,000 for the first eight months of the year. 

In August, the state posted a 3.5% unemployment rate as 181,591 people received unemployment benefits, which means that Georgia recorded 2.17 job openings for every unemployed person receiving benefits. In September the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.2%. 

The information provided comes from seasonally adjusted data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The JOLTS program provides information on labor demand and turnover. Additional information about the JOLTS program can be found at Estimates are published for job openings, hires, quits, layoffs and discharges, and 1.6 separations. The JOLTS program covers all private nonfarm establishments, as well as civilian federal, state, and local government entities in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

Georgia job growth moderates 

A separate report from BLS showed that the number of new nonfarm jobs created in Georgia rose by 14,300 in September after falling by 700 in August. Both private sector and government employment, which had been growing strongly in June and July slowed significantly in August and September.

Combining the months of June and July, private sector jobs rose by 68,700 and government employment (Federal, state, and local governments combined) increased by 7,600 jobs.

For the two months of August and September, private sector jobs rose by 15,800, and government employment actually declined by 2,200 jobs.

In the third quarter of 2021 – July, August, and September -- employers in Georgia (private and government combined) created 49,700 new jobs compared to 87,600 jobs in the third quarter of 2020.

The increase in the number of people quitting their jobs in August can be interpreted as worker optimism about their economic futures, while the slowing job growth numbers might represent caution on the part of employers towards filling vacancies, or employers’ failure to attract enough acceptable applicants to meet their workforce needs.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank sees labor and price pressures

 The Federal Reserve has issued its most recent commentary on current economic conditions.

Commonly known as the Beige Book, this report is published eight times per year. Each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. 

Below is the report provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on economic conditions in its district, which includes Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and portions of Louisiana, Mississippi.

Summary of Economic Activity
Economic activity in the Sixth District expanded at a moderate pace from mid-August through September. Demand for labor was strong, and worker supply remained extremely tight. Reports of wage increases, along with signing and retention bonuses, were widespread. Some nonlabor costs continued to rise, and pricing power improved. Retail sales activity strengthened, but the pace of new car sales slowed due to supply chain constraints. Domestic leisure travel activity remained strong. Demand for housing was robust, inventories declined, and home prices rose. Commercial real estate conditions were mixed. Manufacturing activity was robust, but production slowed as labor shortages caused more idle time. Conditions at financial institutions were stable, and consumer and residential loan demand improved.

Employment and Wages
District contacts continued to report strong demand for labor and the supply of available workers remained extremely tight. Turnover increased as staff left jobs for higher wages, greater flexibility, and better work environments. At the same time, the number of retirements increased. A few firms noted that recent surges in COVID-19 cases caused higher rates of absenteeism than in previous waves. Several employers said they have been forced to make daily evaluations on which operations can be supported based on the number of employees who came to work. The most severe shortages were among hospital nurses who were noted as migrating to other practices where they can have a stable schedule, or to traveling positions where they can earn multiples of their prior hourly rate. Most employers shared that they would like to implement COVID-19 vaccine mandates but were concerned about losing employees. Worries about employee mental health, burnout, safety, and vaccine mandates impacting company culture were mentioned.

Upward pressure on wages intensified over the reporting period and reports were relatively widespread. Several contacts mentioned that escalating living expenses have become a part of wage negotiations. Wage increases continued to be noted along with signing and retention bonuses. Employers were offering greater flexibility to retain and attract workers when possible and several noted new hires negotiating for more paid time off.

District contacts reported persistent increases in some nonlabor costs. In particular, steel and freight costs rose markedly. The volatility of these and other input costs, exacerbated by supply chain constraints, delayed construction projects across sectors, with uncertainty around expected completion timelines. Food prices also rose. Contacts continued to note an ability to pass through input cost increases. The Atlanta Fed's Business Inflation Expectations survey showed year-over-year unit costs were relatively unchanged in September at 3.2 percent, from 3.3 percent in August. Year-ahead expectations also remained generally stable at 3.1 percent in September, compared to 3 percent in August.

Consumer Spending and Tourism
District retailers reported strong demand since the previous report. However, several cited missed sales opportunities due to of a lack of inventory and persistent labor shortages that resulted in reduced hours of operation. The pace of new vehicle sales continued to slow due to supply chain constraints.

Domestic leisure travel continued to drive tourism activity for much of the District, though occupancy at limited-services hotel properties declined due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and the start of school. In New Orleans, tourism plummeted following Hurricane Ida; however, the city has since opened, and contacts expect activity will improve over the balance of the year. Some contacts indicated further deterioration in business travel and convention bookings due to rising COVID-19 cases and expressed uncertainty over the next three months.

Construction and Real Estate
Demand for housing throughout the District remained strong, though activity moderated slightly from record highs. Real estate contacts noted multiple offers on properties for sale. On a year-over-year basis, inventory levels declined, and home prices rose by double digits in most markets. Declining home ownership affordability was a growing concern for some buyers, resulting in more moderate growth in sales and declining homebuyer sentiment. The decline in affordability was widespread, with markets in Central and South Florida experiencing the sharpest decline in the District.

Commercial real estate activity was mixed. Conditions in the multifamily sector improved notably from last year, though there was growing uncertainty regarding future effects from the end of the eviction moratorium. Activity in the retail segment continued to improve. The office sector remained challenged as employers expressed uncertainty about future space needs. Negative rates of absorption and new deliveries pushed office vacancies upward. Contacts report that competition is accelerating among CRE lenders. Smaller banks and non-bank lenders have been identified by market contacts as some of the more aggressive CRE lenders.

District manufacturers reported robust demand over the reporting period. However, materials shortages and longer supply delivery times continued to slow production, and some firms experienced increased down time due to higher absenteeism caused by COVID-19 illnesses. Several manufacturers anticipate further strengthening in demand but expressed uncertainty about future production levels.

Activity in the transportation sector strengthened, on balance, since the previous report. Logistics contacts reported robust demand as the peak shipping season commenced. East coast ports saw record container volumes. However, growing numbers of container ships idled off the coast, as short supplies of chassis, trucks, and labor slowed throughput. Operations resumed for Gulf coast ports after Hurricane Ida caused shutdowns due to damaged facilities and power outages. Air cargo contacts reported a resumption of cargo-only flights to capitalize on bottlenecks at ports. Contacts expect gridlocks at ports and other supply chain disruptions to continue into 2022.

Banking and Finance
Conditions at District financial institutions remained stable. Margin pressures persisted as a result of the low interest rate environment, weak loan growth, and elevated liquidity. Loan balances declined for multiple loan portfolios, including commercial and industrial loans. Banks reported improvements in consumer and residential loan demand. Deposit levels remained high but growth moderated, causing some institutions to increase short-term borrowings. Asset quality remained healthy without notable increases to nonperforming loans or charge-offs.

Energy industry contacts reported damage to infrastructure servicing production in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of Hurricane Ida. However, some indicated that resiliency efforts made since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, including the hardening of energy infrastructure and investments in diesel-driven power generation, accelerated the recovery. Reduced oil and gas output was primarily attributed to challenges in redeploying workers since reentry into some communities was difficult or impossible after the storm. However, collaboration with private entities and state government helped alleviate immediate post-hurricane labor tightness. Some contacts expressed concern about short-term natural gas supply and pricing pressures resulting from reduced output. Further, reduced investment in oil and gas exploration and production in recent months is anticipated to result in long-term cutbacks in supply. Utilities contacts continued to cite strengthening residential, commercial, and industrial sales, as well as significant investment in renewables, particularly wind and solar power.

Agricultural conditions remained mixed. Widespread rain kept the District free of drought, but left parts of the District in abnormally moist to excessively wet conditions. Producers continued to assess damages from Hurricane Ida; initial estimates indicated damage to row and vegetable crops, sugarcane, timber, livestock, and infrastructure. On a year-over-year basis, production forecasts for corn, soybean, peanut, and cotton crops were up while rice and sugarcane forecasts were down. The USDA reported year-over-year prices paid to farmers in August were up for corn, cotton, soybeans, cattle, broilers, and eggs, but down for rice and milk. On a month-over-month basis, prices were up for corn, rice, cattle, broilers, and eggs but down for cotton, soybeans, and milk.

For more information about District economic conditions visit:

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Georgia economy continues to grow but falls behind national economic growth in the 2nd quarter of 2021

Georgia’s economy continued to recover in the second quarter of 2021, although its growth rate slowed compared to the first quarter of the year as the state grew slower than the nation between April through June.

The state’s real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 6.0% in the second quarter of the year, following a 6.9% increase in the first quarter of 2021 (percentage increases annualized).

By comparison, the national economy grew by 6.7% in the second quarter after rising by 6.3% in the first quarter (annualized).

With the second quarter, Georgia’s economy totaled $563,805,400,000, raising it above pre-Covid levels for the first time even as nonfarm employment in the state continued to trail its pre-Covid level by 85,000 jobs compared to the second quarter of 2019.

Georgia economy gains lower than the nation

Adjusted for inflation, Georgia’s economy grew by a compound rate of 11.4% between second quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2021, less than the 12.2% growth in the national economy.

Private industry in the state increased by 12.4% compared to 13.6% for the U.S. with manufacturing seeing an increase of 15.6% in Georgia compared to 18.4% nationwide.

Real estate and rental and leasing, the largest contributor to Georgia’s economy and accounting for 14% of the state’s GDP, rose over the year a relatively sluggish 3.5% compared to the nation’s 4.3% increase.

The information sector, which represents 11.2% of the state’s economy, increased faster than the U.S. over the year, rising by 21.1% compared to 15.9% nationally.

Agriculture and forestry grew by a sizeable 14.4% compared to 2.9% for the U.S., but the industry remained a less than 1% contributor to the state’s overall GDP and is actually less of a contributor to the state than to the national economy.

A notable lagging industry was transportation and warehousing. The sector’s GDP rose by 6.5% in Georgia over the year compared to 14.8% nationally. Increases in freight traffic in the state could not offset the negative effects of a slowdown in passenger airline business and reflects the importance of passenger aircraft transportation as a contributor to the state’s overall economy.

Accommodation and food services business, although showing strong growth, still fell short of the national averages as the industry saw a 58.3% rise in Georgia compared to 69.2% increase nationally.

A faster growing economy offers the prospect of increased job opportunities, so Georgia’s rate of GDP growth is an important indicator for its labor market.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Georgia’s counties struggle with declining populations

 In Georgia, 66 of the state’s 159 counties lost population between 2010 and 2020 according to newly released information from the 2020 Decennial Census. These losses occurred even as the state gained more than 1 million people over the same decade and grew by 10.6%.

In the majority of cases, counties lost people who were 18 years or older, although 17 of the 66 counties gained population in the 18 and older category even while losing more people under the age of 18.

Together, the 66 counties saw a net population decline of 71,178. In contrast one county, Gwinnett County, saw its population grow by 151,741 over the same time period.

Counties losing population tended to be primarily rural economic areas in the lower half of the state and not part of major metropolitan areas that could benefit from growth of nearby cities.

Counties with the largest population declines included

Dougherty  -8,775 (-9.3%)

Telfair  -4,023 (-24.4%)

Dooly  -3,710 (-24.9%)

McIntosh  -3,358 (-23.4%)

Crisp  -3,311 (-14.1%)

Sumter  -3,203 (-9.8%)

These counties also suffered significant declines in the number of people age 18 and older.

Counties with the largest losses of people age 18 and older included

Dougherty  -3,965 (-5.6%)

Telfair  -2,994 (-22.7%)

Dooly  -2,572 (-21.9%)

Tattnall  -2,460 (-12.2%)

McIntosh  -2,215 (-19.7%)

Crisp  -1,747 (-10.1%)

Racial makeup of counties with declining populations

The 66 counties combined saw a net loss of 59,762 people who identified themselves as While alone in the 2020 Census, and a net loss of 37,170 people who identified themselves as Black or African American alone. These losses were partially offset by 25,353 people who identified themselves as belonging to two or more races.

With Census respondents able to self-report their race, it is impossible to know if the increase in the number of people reporting as belonging to two or more races is due to increase marriages between races or rather that people are feeling more comfortable reporting that their family background includes more than one race.

Dooly, McIntosh, and Telfair counties

Three counties – Dooly, McIntosh, and Telfair – recorded population declines greater than 20% between 2010 and 2020 with declines of -24.9%, -23.4% and -24.4% respectively.

For Dooly County, the number of people identifying themselves as White alone dropped by 31.1%, Black or African American alone declined by 25.3%, while the number of people identifying as belonging to two or more races rose by 127.9% from 136 in 2010 to 310 in 2020.

In McIntosh County, the number of people identifying themselves as While alone dropped by 18.9%, Black or African American alone declined by 38%, while the number of people identifying as belonging to two or more races rose by 175.1% from 177 in 2010 to 487 in 2020.

In Telfair County, the number of people identifying themselves as While alone dropped by 22.7%, Black or African American alone declined by 23.1%, while the number of people identifying as belonging to two or more races rose by 6% from 285 in 2010 to 302 in 2020.

In all three counties, the number of people age 18 or older declined at a slower rate than the overall decline in population with people 18 or older in Dooly County dropping by 21.9%, McIntosh County declining by 19.7%, and Telfair County seeing a drop of 22.7%.

Revitalizing rural counties

As people move out of these rural counties even as the state significantly increases its overall population, the challenge of retaining and even enticing people to move into these areas becomes both more urgent and more difficult.

Declining population leads to declines in opportunities, which leads to further declines in population.

The loss of older residents is significant because they provide incomes that support local businesses. The population losses also impact local tax collections, property values and other areas such as medical services as fewer people result in a declining need for local goods and services.

Georgia faces many hurdles in its counties located far from its largest metro areas. First, there is the question of whether to attempt to reverse population declines or whether to readjust to fewer people residing in large parts of the state.

If the state wants to bring people back to these areas, what resources are needed and how much of the state’s limited budget should be spent on this attempt especially as growing metro areas such as Atlanta and Savannah put in claims for state resources?

Finally, the question arises whether smaller counties that are losing population may be better served by merging and creating larger counties that can more efficiently serve their populations?

Rather than take a piecemeal approach, it would be good if state planners considered these larger questions before undertaking projects that at best might stem the tide of population declines, and at worse steal resources that could be better used.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Georgia Census: We are living increasingly closer to each other and in the northern part of the state

 Data from the 2020 Decennial Census reveals the shifting geography occurring in Georgia.

Census data are also provided for cities and towns in Georgia, including what the Census classifies as Census Designated Places (CDPs), which are settled areas, although not incorporated as cities or towns.

From 2010 to 2020, the number of people living in cities, towns, and CDPs in Georgia has grown by more than 800,000 or more than 18%, much faster than the growth of the state’s overall population.

In 2010, the state had 624 cities, towns, and CDPs. By 2020, that number had grown to 675 settled areas including newly incorporated cities such as Stonecrest and South Fulton.

Of the 675 settlements in the state, 563 had populations under 10,000, and another 93 had populations between 10,000 to 50,000. Eleven areas recorded populations between 50,000 to 99,000 while 7 areas showed populations between 100,000 to just over 200,000 leaving the City of Atlanta as the only city in the state with more than 210,000 people.

The City of Atlanta showed the greatest numerical growth of any settled area in Georgia, adding more than 78,000 people over the 10-year period, with a growth rate of greater than 18% for a 2020 population of almost 499,000.

The number of people living in the state but outside settled areas grew by 1870,000 over the decade, or only 3.6%.

Shifts in county populations

Eight counties in the Atlanta metro area – Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Henry – recorded the largest numerical increases of all Georgia counties with a combined population increase of 651,000 people, or 16.5%. Of those eight, Forsyth County showed the fastest growth with a 43% increase over the decade.

Although Columbia County (Augusta, Ga., MSA) reported a 25% growth rate, its addition of almost 32,000 more people still fell behind the numerical increases in the eight Atlanta metro counties.

Chatham County (Savannah, Ga., MSA) also recorded significant growth with the addition of 30,000 more people that resulted in an 11% growth rate.

At the other end of the spectrum, 67 counties saw population losses over the decade with Dougherty County recording the largest numerical loss of more than 8,000 people or 9% of its 2010 population. Dooly and Telfair counties recorded the largest percentage losses of 24% each followed by McIntosh County with a 23% population loss.

News media has already reported that from 2010 to 2020, Georgia’s population grew by 1 million people or 10.7%.

Information from the 2020 Census will inform Georgia lawmakers as they redraw legislative districts before the 2022 state elections.