Thursday, June 30, 2022

Atlanta unemployment rate up in May; number of quits in Georgia rises in April


The Atlanta area’s unemployment rate in May rose to 2.6%, up from 2.4% in April, although still steeply below the 4.0% recorded in May 2021.

For May, the number of people employed in the Atlanta area declined by 7,620 as the number of people unemployed rose by 7,075. The number of people in the Atlanta area’s labor force was essentially unchanged over the month.

BLS revised its report for April with the number of those dropping out of the labor force increasing by 1,088 and decreasing the number employed by 1,020.

Compared to May 2021, the Atlanta area’s labor force has increased by 90,137, while the number of unemployed in the area declined by 39,947.

State Labor Turnover

Georgia saw a significant increase in the number of people quitting their jobs, while layoffs and discharges decreased between March and April 2022, according to newly released information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of people choosing to quit their jobs in the state rose from 168,000 in March to 185,000 in April with the rate increasing from 3.5 to 3.9.

The number of workers faced with layoffs and discharges declined from 77,000 in March to 54,000 in April with the rate dropping from 1.6 to 1.1.

From March to April, the number of job openings, hires, and total separations were little changed for Georgia.

State Labor Turnover April 2021 to April 2022

Over the past year, the number of job openings in Georgia rose from 338,000 to 419,000 with the rate rising from 7.0 to 8.1.

Hires in the state increased from 249,000 to 271,000 as the rate of hiring increasing from 5.5 to 5.7.

Total separations rose from 252,000 to 260,000 with the rate with the rate virtually unchanged over the year.

Within total separations, those choosing to quit their jobs shifted from 181,000 to 185,000 with the rate virtually unchanged over the year.

Layoffs and discharges dropped from 57,000 to 54,000 as the rate changed from 1.3 to 1.1.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Employment up and unemployment rate down, but it isn’t all good news for Georgia in May

Georgia saw the addition of 18,100 jobs in May and a drop of the state’s unemployment rate to 3.0%, which is the lowest unemployment rate recorded in Georgia (back to 1976). The state’s employment-population ratio (the number of employed people as a percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population) rose to 60.5, reaching the level it achieved in February 2020, before Covid-related cutbacks and shutdowns. The state’s labor force participation rate (the participation rate is the percentage of the population that is either working or actively looking for work.) rose to 62.3, still below the level in February 2020. 

Those are the headlines, and if you stop there, you are getting only part of the picture of the state’s labor market. 

Job growth by metro area 

Underlying those numbers, it is worth noting that the Atlanta metro area, which has served as the engine for the state’s employment growth, saw an increase of only 4,400 jobs in May, the slowest rate of increase since September. While one-month slowdown in the state’s largest metro area is not a concern and may easily be rectified when the revised numbers are produced next month, it needs to be an area of concern. 

Despite the continued good numbers overall, 6 of the state’s 14 metro areas reported employment below their pre-pandemic levels. Because the Atlanta area constitutes such a large portion of the state’s labor market, it can mask slower growth in other parts of the state. 

Areas showing May 2022 job levels lower than in February 2020 include Valdosta (-200), Dalton (-300), Warner Robins (-500), Augusta (-2,800), Columbus (-1,700), and Albany (-1,100). Most of these areas have never achieved their pre-pandemic jobs levels, although Dalton had reached that level but has slipped back in the past few months. 

Job growth by industry 

A similar situation relates to jobs by industry. Georgia has added 244,100 jobs over the past 12 months, resulting in a 5.4% job growth rate, but not all sectors in the economy have reached their pre-pandemic levels despite this overall increase. 

Construction employment in the state remains 4,000 jobs below its pre-pandemic level (down nearly 2%) mainly due to a lack of job growth in the heavy construction (infrastructure) industry. 

Employment in corporate offices (referred to as management of companies and enterprises) remains down by 1,500 jobs. 

Jobs in accommodation and food services remain 16,800 (-3.7%) below their pre-pandemic level, while jobs in other services are 7,300 (-4.3%) below the level reached in February 2020. 

Both state and local government jobs remain below pre-pandemic levels with state government jobs down by 13,200 (-7.9%) and local government employment down by 9,000 (-2.1%). 

Even with the upbeat news on job growth and the decline in the state’s unemployment rate, its worth remembering that not all industries or all areas of the state have recovered yet.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Heavy and civil engineering construction continues to lag in Georgia and foretell future problems


Drive around the Atlanta area and you are bound to see new construction – both multifamily and single-family residences continue to spring up all over the metro area, as they are in other parts of the state, such as the Savannah area.

Despite these visible signs of improvement, construction employment continues to lag behind the private sector in general.

In 2021, average annual employment in Georgia’s private sector grew by almost 4.9%, while construction employment rose by only 2%.

Residential construction keeping up construction employment

Much of the disparity lies with the increase of residential construction versus nonresidential building and heavy and civil engineering construction.

Between 2020 and 2021, employment in residential construction increased by 5.4%, while nonresidential building construction rose by 1.5%, and employment in heavy and civil engineering construction actually declined 3.8%.

Compared to February 2020 (pre-pandemic), construction employment through April is ahead by 3,165 workers, with building construction employment up by 1,743 and specialty trades contractors’ employment increasing by 4,148.

Heavy and civil engineering construction

What is heavy and civil engineering construction? Think water and sewers, pipeline, and power and communication systems, not to mention roads and bridges, and you have a pretty good idea of the types of construction that fall into this category.

Employment in heavy and civil engineering construction is actually down by -2,726 compared to its pre-pandemic levels.

Imbalances will lead to problems

The imbalances in the recovery of the construction sector point to trends as well as future problems.

The trend in constructing residential versus nonresidential buildings can be partly explained by the work-from-home trend as fewer workers on-site means less need for commercial office space.

Unfortunately, the trend in residential construction without the corresponding increase in water, sewer, and other types of heavy construction, such as roads, means that residents of these newly occupied family dwellings will find themselves with inadequate infrastructure to support their living.

As a result, more crowded roads, decaying bridges, inadequate water systems, etc., look to frustrate residents.

Since most heavy construction is publicly funded through taxes, the solution depends on the willingness of taxpayers to increase taxes on themselves. Short of increased taxes to fund public improvements, Georgians will find themselves complaining about the situation while unwilling to take the necessary steps towards improving it.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Census data show shifts in Georgia population out of core Atlanta counties in 2021

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals a significant shift in population out of the Atlanta’s core counties in 2021. 

While the Atlanta metro area remains the most populous region in the state, and Fulton County continues as the location of the both the most populated county in the state and home to the largest number of jobs of any county in Georgia, in 2021 the area’s population is shifted away from core counties, such as Fulton and DeKalb, to counties outside this traditional core area.

Population shifts

Three suburban Atlanta counties, Forsyth, Gwinnett, and Cherokee, showed the largest net increases in population from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021. Forsyth County added 7,420 people, Gwinnett increased by 6,745, and Cherokee’s population rose by 6,572. Combined, population in the three counties grew by 20,737.

Other counties making up the top 10 in adding population included Paulding (4,120), Hall (3,780), Jackson (3,574), Henry (3,417), Coweta (3,303), Columbia (2,866), and Walton (2,718). Columbia County, which is part of the Augusta metro area, is the only county in this group whose population is not tied directly to employment in the Atlanta metro area.

At the other end of the spectrum, DeKalb and Fulton counties recorded the largest population declines of -6,113 and -3,689, respectively. A significant portion of these declines occurred as people moved out of the two counties that was partially offset by migration from outside the U.S. as well as births outnumbering deaths in the two counties.

Georgia saw the net addition of 73,766 people over the year as the state saw a net increase 50,632 new residents moving from other states plus a net international migration of 6,997 people, while the number of births outnumbered deaths by 15,993. With these changes, Georgia’s population stands at 10,799,566, an increase of 0.69% over 2020.

Fulton County remains the most populous county in Georgia at 1,065,334, followed by Gwinnett (964,546) Cobb (766,802), and DeKalb (757,718).

Regarding employment, Fulton County continues to be home to the state’s largest employment base as of June 2021 with 872,714 jobs in the county, followed by Cobb (365,773), and Gwinnett (357,896), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As of July 1, 2021, Taliaferro County, Georgia, was home to the smallest population of Georgia’s 159 counties, with a population of 1,558 having a net gain of one person over the year. A total of 50 counties in the state lost population between 2020 and 2021.

County population factors

Changes in total population are due to a combination of factors that include natural change (births minus deaths), net international migration, and domestic migration.

Forsyth County recorded the largest net domestic migration among Georgia counties, with a net increase of 6,755, while net international migration totaled 232. Births outnumbered deaths in the county by 508.

Most of Gwinnett County’s growth was due to births outnumbering deaths by 4,750, while net domestic migration added 681 residents and international migration saw the population increase by 1,167.

For Cherokee County, domestic migration accounted for almost all of the county’s population increase (6,065), while international migration added a net of 93 more people and births outnumbered deaths by 456.

In contrast, DeKalb County saw net domestic migration reduce its population by -11,455 that was partially offset by net international migration of 1,506 and births outnumbering deaths by 3,915.

Fulton County recorded a net loss of -7,786 people due to domestic migration out of the county, partially offset by net international migration of 1,236 and births outnumbering deaths by 2,726.

Net domestic migration includes net migration between counties in Georgia as well as migration between Georgia and other states in the U.S.

Net international migration includes the international migration of both native and foreign-born populations.  Specifically, it includes: (a) the net international migration of the foreign born, (b) the net migration between the United States and Puerto Rico, (c) the net migration of natives to and from the United States, and (d) the net movement of the Armed Forces population between the United States and overseas.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Georgia maintains low unemployment rate, more job growth in April

 Georgia nonfarm jobs, January 2020 - April 2022

Data seasonally adjusted. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Georgia remained at its historical low unemployment rate of 3.1% in April, the same as in March. Since June of last year, the state’s unemployment rate has stayed consistently below 4% as employment in the state grew and the number of people unemployed buy actively seeking work continued to fall.

The state added 19,000 nonfarm jobs in April, slightly more than the revised 18,200 jobs recorded for March.

Unemployment in Georgia

The state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in April, while the state’s unemployment rate decreased from 4.3% in April 2021 to 3.1% in April 2022.

The number of people unemployed but actively seeking work fell to 160,885. Compared to a year ago, the number of unemployed persons declined by 60,472. The number of people currently unemployed in Georgia is near the unemployment level recorded in May 2001 when the state’s labor force was more than 1 million people smaller. In May 2001, the state’s unemployment rate was 3.7%.

Nonfarm jobs

Since April 2021, Georgia has seen the addition of 252,000 jobs (5.6%), although state and local government employment growth remains muted.

The private sector in the state added 17,200 jobs in April, while the government sector added 1,800 jobs. Over the past 12 months, private sector employment has grown by 246,600 (6.4%), while government employment has risen by 5,400 (0.8%).

Industries recording job losses over the month included construction (-1,400) and manufacturing (-1,200).

Job growth was most pronounced in wholesale trade (7,900), and professional and business services (6,000).

Over the most recent 12-month period, industries seeing the largest numerical increases include professional and business services (64,100), leisure and hospitality (41,700), retail trade (24,800), and health care and social assistance (19,600).

One area that remains a concern is construction, which posted a job loss of 1,400 jobs in April with industry employment 1,000 jobs below its level in April 2021. After showing solid growth in 2021, the industry has seen a decline of 6,000 jobs since January.

Atlanta, Athens, and Savannah areas

Within the state, three areas are posting significant job growth rates over the past year.

The Atlanta metro area added 11,000 of the state’s 19,000 new jobs in April. Over the past year, the Atlanta area job market has grown faster than the state as a whole, with the metro area adding 183,000 jobs, and accounting for more than 70% of the state’s job growth.

While the state has seen a 5.6% growth in new jobs since April 2021, the Atlanta metro area job market has increased by 6.6%.

Athens-Clarke County metro area added 500 new jobs in April. Over the past 12 months, the area has seen an increase of 6,200 jobs, or 6.5%.

The Savannah metro area job market declined by 900 jobs in April, its first monthly decline since October. Over the past 12 months, the Savannah area has seen the addition of 11,400 new jobs for a growth rate of 6.1%.

All three job markets are now larger than in February 2020, before the pandemic-related job downturn.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Job openings, hires for Georgia decline in March

 Job openings in Georgia, January 2021 - March 2022

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Georgia saw the number of job openings decrease by 33,000 between February and March, after seasonal adjustment, according to new information released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of openings declined from 435,000 in February to 402,000 in March. Compared to a year ago, the number of job openings remain much higher than the 289,000 openings posted in March 2021.

March marked the largest decline in the number of job openings in the state since March 2021, when the state saw a one-month net loss of 75,000 openings as Covid concerns prompted companies to scale back their hiring plans.

The number of people hired in March 2022 declined by 45,000 from February. The number of hires dropped from 316,000 in February to 271,000 in March. In March 2021, the number of hires stood at 215,000.

Both the decline in the number of job openings and the drop in the number of hires were a dramatic turnaround from the figures in February when the state posted increases of 35,000 openings and 53,000 hires for the month.

Separations, quits, and layoffs and discharges

There was little change in the number of separations, as well as in the number of people quitting their jobs between February and March. While the number of separations increased slightly, and the number of people quitting their jobs declined slightly, neither figure was statistically significant according to BLS.

Similarly, the number of layoffs and discharges rose slightly over the month but not to the level that was deemed statistically significant.

Compared to a year ago, the number of separations and the number of quits remained well above the numbers recorded in March 2021. At that time, the number of separations was posted as 197,000 compared to 253,000 in March 2022, while the number of people quitting their jobs was 131,000 compared to 177,000 in March 2022.

The number of layoffs and discharges were virtually the same in March 2021 and March 2022.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Inflation remains elevated in the Atlanta area for April 2022

 CPI-U Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA

12-month percentage change, 1981 through 2021

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Consumer prices in the Atlanta area (CPI-U for Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA) rose 1.9% for the two months ending in April 2022, according to newly released information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The two-month increase in prices for the March-April period were slightly less than the 2.3% increase recorded in the January-February period.

Over the 12 months ending in April, consumer prices rose by 10.8% in the Atlanta area. Consumer prices in the Atlanta area were slightly above the 10.6% increase recorded for the 12-month period ending in February and remain at the highest level recorded for the Atlanta area since 1981.

For the United States, consumer prices rose 1.9% for the two months ending in April and increased 8.3% over the past 12 months.

Atlanta area prices

Food prices increased 2.2% for the two months ending in April and have risen 9.3% over the past 12 months reaching the largest 12-month increase since 1981. Costs for food at home increased 3.1% over the past two months, while costs for food away from home increased 1.1%.

Energy prices rose 7.6% for the two months ending in April with gasoline prices increasing 14.3%. Over the past year, energy costs have risen 23.5%, while gasoline prices have moved up 40.2%.

The prices for all items less food and energy increased 1.2% for the two months ending in April and 9.8% over the past 12 months. Notably, costs for shelter in the Atlanta area increased 2.0% over the past two months and have increased 9.9% over the past year, the largest 12-month increase for the shelter index since 1982.

Real earnings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not publish inflation-adjusted hourly earnings for the Atlanta area but does produce information for the nation based on national data.

For the one-month period ending in April, real average hourly earnings for all employees declined by 0.1%. This result stems from an increase of 0.3% in average hourly earnings combined with an increase of 0.3% in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

Real average hourly earnings decreased 2.6%, seasonally adjusted, from April 2021 to April 2022. The change in real average hourly earnings combined with a decrease of 0.9% in the average workweek resulted in a 3.4% decrease in real average weekly earnings over this period.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Atlanta area private sector employment breaks 2.6 million mark, unemployment rate unchanged in March

 Atlanta area private sector jobs, January 2019 - March 2022

Private sector employers in the Atlanta metro area posted more than 2.6 million jobs in March, according to newly released information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the past 12 months, private sector employment grew by 173,000 jobs, and the area posted nearly 75,000 more jobs than it had shown in February 2020, before the beginning of Covid-related cutbacks and shutdowns.

For the month, the Atlanta area added 14,500 jobs, combined private and public sectors before seasonal adjustment, while the unemployment rate remained at 3.2%, the same as in February.

Professional and business services added 3,000 jobs over the month and rose by 46,900 over the year.

The leisure and hospitality sector grew by 2,100 jobs in March, while job growth over the 12-month period totaled 28,800, an increase of more than 11.5%. Within the sector, jobs in food services and drinking places added 1,500 jobs over the month and 19,000 jobs over the past year.

Sectors of continued concern

Two sectors that remain worrisome is construction and other services. Construction added 800 jobs in March. For past 12 months, the sector added 1,900 jobs.

Atlanta area construction jobs, January 2019 - March 2022

Other services saw jobs grow by 1,200 over the month. Despite adding 6,000 jobs over the previous 12 months, the sector remains 4,400 jobs short of where it stood prior to the Covid period.

Atlanta area other services jobs, January 2019 - March 2022

These two sectors’ slow growth with construction jobs just now reaching their pre-Covid levels and other services remaining below may indicate concern on the part of employers as to whether the overall economy will continue its long-term upward trend. Other services includes repair and maintenance jobs, as well as membership association jobs. Employment in these categories can be a good indicator of employers’ intentions and willingness to commit funds to longer-term projects.

(Charts from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Friday, April 15, 2022

Georgia unemployment rate levels off in March, breaking previous trend

Georgia’s unemployment rate stood at 3.1% in March 2022. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the change in the state’s unemployment rate over the month was within the sample error range, so speaking statistically, the rate remained stable from February to March. A  year ago, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 4.4%.

Nonfarm employment was little changed in March, but recorded a 5.2% rise compared to March 2021. In March 2022, the state’s nonfarm employment stood at 4,740,400, up 234,400 over the past 12 months.

Unemployment in Georgia

Because the household sample for the state is only a small subset of the national sample, it takes a much greater change in the state’s unemployment rate to be statistically significant as smaller samples are more subject to greater sampling and non-sampling errors.

This can cause confusion where a number that may look smaller than the previous month may actually reveal no change due to the error range of the smaller sample.

Throughout 2021 and into 2022, Georgia’s unemployment rate was consistently below the nation. This trend was broken in March when BLS noted that the state’s unemployment rate was not statistically significantly different than for the nation as the national rate fell faster than for the state.

It is possible that this change in the trend may indicate that the state is reaching the bottom of its current trend and that Georgia’s unemployment rate may begin to rise in future months, either due to people currently not in the labor force deciding to return to search for work, or because more people find themselves unemployed.

If a rise in the unemployment rate is due to people being drawn back into the labor force, that can be a positive development for Georgia’s economy, while more people moving from employed to unemployed would be seen as a negative development.

Future months will better reveal whether Georgia can regain its relative outperformance.

Nonfarm employment

Over the first quarter of 2022, Georgia saw the addition of 65,700 nonfarm job, of which 64,300 were in the private sector and 1,400 resided in governments.

All of the private sector’s job growth was concentrated in service-providing industries, which added 64,700 jobs, while the goods-producing sector, which includes manufacturing and construction, saw a decline of 400 jobs in the first three months of the year.

Within the goods-producing sector, the construction industries showed a net loss of 4,000 jobs, while manufacturing in the state recorded an increase of 3,400 jobs. 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Office jobs dominate employment while physicians dominate wages in the Atlanta area in 2021

Workers in office and administrative support occupations were the largest major category by employment, while medical doctor occupations recorded the highest average pay among detailed occupations in the Atlanta area in May 2021, according to new information released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey.

Employment by major categories

Among the major categories, the largest percentage of workers were found in the office and administrative support occupations (13%) with sales and related fields and transportation and material moving occupations each containing approximately 10% of the area’s workforce.

Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations represented 5.3% of employment, while healthcare support occupations accounted for another 2.8%.

In contrast, workers employed in the life, physical, and social science occupations totaled only 0.6% of the area’s workforce, only two-thirds of the percentage of workers in this category nationally.

Highest paying occupations

Among the major categories, in the Atlanta area management occupations offered the highest average wages at $124,850 followed by legal occupations at $105,370.

For detailed occupations, obstetricians and gynecologists were at the top spot averaging $338,680 per year, followed by neurologists ($336,230), radiologists ($330,350), all other surgeons ($329,800), and anesthesiologists ($307,730).

Actuaries was the highest paying occupation outside the medical field, averaging $245,520. Among detailed occupations, 12.6% of workers were in occupations that averaged more than $100,000 per year.

Lowest paying occupations

Amusement and recreation attendants were the lowest paid detailed occupational group in the Atlanta area with wages averaging $21,570.

Other low paid occupations included cashiers ($23,260), fast food and counter workers ($24,120), and hosts and hostesses at restaurants, lounges, and coffee shops ($23,080).

Overall, average annual wages in the Atlanta area were $59,100 in May, 2021 with 61% of workers in occupations that fell below that average. Food preparation and serving related occupations were the lowest paid major category with average annual wages of $26,890. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Georgia shows strong job market continuing in February

Georgia added 24,700 new jobs in February following a revised increase of 25,000 jobs in January, according to new data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With these most recent two months, the state saw an over-the-year increase of 232,000 jobs or 5.2%, with 228,400 jobs created by the private sector.

February marked the fourth consecutive month where the total number of nonfarm jobs in the state recorded a new high, reaching the 4.7 million mark.

The state’s unemployment rate remained at 3.2%, the same as January, although the number of employed inched upwards, while the number of unemployed inched downward over the month.

Employment by industry sector

Most industry sectors in Georgia recorded increases over the month, with jobs in the professional and business services sector rising by 10,500 in February. Over the past 12 months, the sector has seen an increase of 52,500 jobs, or 7.3%.

Among private industry sectors, construction stood out as losing 4,300 jobs in February, after seasonal adjustment. With the February decrease, construction employment fell below its pre-Covid level.

The leisure and hospitality sector, hard hit by Covid-related shutdowns and cutbacks in 2020, saw an increase of 4,300 jobs in February. Over the past 12 months, the sector has recorded a net addition of 43,800 jobs, or 10.1%. Despite the gains, employment in this sector remains below its pre-Covid levels.

Another area still struggling to reach are state and local governments. State government lost 300 jobs in February. Over the past year, state government employment has shrunk by 3,100 jobs or -2%.

Employment in local governments fell by 100 jobs in February. Over the past 12 months, employment in this sector has risen by 7,100 or 1.8%.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Number of job openings decline in Georgia even as state records record low unemployment rate

The number of job openings in Georgia declined by 39,000 at the end of January even as the state’s unemployment rate hit a record low 3.2%, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Georgia's job openings rate dropped from 8.2 in December to 7.5 in January.  Georgia’s rate remained above the national average, which declined from 7.1 in December to 7.0 in January. In January 2021, the state recorded a job openings rate of 6.5. The one-month decline in the number of openings was the largest recorded for Georgia since March 2020, when coronavirus-related cutbacks by employers hit the state’s workforce. 

In Jaanuary, the number of hires and separations (including the number of people quitting their jobs) in the state were little changed over the month. The hires rate in the state stood at 5.5, and the total separations rate was 5.3. Within total separations, the quits rate remained 3.7, while the layoffs and discharges rate stood at 1.0.

In January, the state’s unemployment rate was 3.2%, the lowest since BLS began its current series in 1976. In January 2021, the state recorded an unemployment rate of 4.8%. Since that time, the state’s labor force has grown by 47,357 with the number of people employed rising by 128,308 and the number of unemployed declining by 80,951.

Georgia’s employment-population ratio has risen over the year from 59.0 to 59.8 but remains below its pre-Covid levels of 60+.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Why inflation in services matters

 CPI-U, U.S. Services, 12-month percentage increase

February’s inflation rate for services rose 0.6%, just a touch below January’s increase of 0.7% with the two months’ combined increase moving towards levels last seen in 2008 before the recession saw a slowdown in costs. 

For the 12 months ending in February 2022, the CPI-U Services index rose 4.8%, the highest 12-month increase for the index since 1991. For the Atlanta area, the services index rose 7.8%. 

Unlike food and energy prices that tend to be more volatile, related to supply chain issues, and are more subject to global influences; costs for services are more influenced by domestic considerations. 

Energy prices may vary depending on global supply and demand considerations for items like gasoline and natural gas, food prices may vary depending on global supply and demand considerations for a host of products such as wheat, but costs for services are mostly dependent on demand and supply within the U.S. economy. 

As the New York Federal Reserve pointed out back in 2013, “While core services inflation depends on long-run inflation expectations and the degree of slack in the labor market, core goods inflation depends on short-run inflation expectations and import prices.” (

What are services? 

In the most basic approach, the Consumer Price Index can be broken down into goods and services. BLS defines services as including   shelter, transportation services, medical care services, energy services, water and sewerage, maintenance, trash and garbage collection, household operations, education, and other services. 

By reviewing this list, one can see that services tend to be located within the borders of the U.S., and thus less subject to fluctuations in the global economy. At the same time, prices for services tend to move in a more even fashion with less volatility than the overall index. 

As a result, once prices for services move up, it makes it that much harder to bring down inflation as services inflation tends to embed in the economy. If the Federal Reserve’s policy is to maintain inflation at or about the 2% level, then inflation for services will need to drop by more than half to meet that goal.

Atlanta consumer prices rise more than 10% over the year; largest yearly increase in 4 decades


Consumer Prices in Atlanta Metro Area, 12-month Increase, February 1999-February 2022

Consumer prices in the metro Atlanta area rose 10.6% for the 12 months ending in February 2022, according to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the nation, prices increased 7.9% for the comparable period. 

The increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers for the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga., was the largest 12-month increase recorded since 1981.

Costs for food and beverages in the Atlanta area increased 6.5% as prices for food at home rose 5.9% and food away from home increased 7.6%.

Housing costs rose 8.6% as rents increased 8.5% and costs for household fuels and utilities rose 7.6%. Apparel prices in the metro Atlanta area were up 11.8%.

Transportation costs increased 11.8% with prices for new vehicles increasing 30.7% and prices for used cars and trucks rising 41.4% over the year. Gasoline prices rose 39.9% for the 12 months ending in February.

Recreation costs increased 5.5% and costs for education and communication were up 1.9% over the year.

The index for energy costs increased 22.3%, while prices for all items less food and energy rose 10.1%.

Costs for services increased 7.8% for the 12 months ending in February. The services index should be especially noted, as the index may indicate that inflation is becoming more embedded in consumer purchases.

Comparison with the nation

Overall, costs in the Atlanta area continue to grow at a faster pace than the nation, although this varied by item.

For the two months ending in February, consumer prices increased 2.3% in the Atlanta area, while they rose 1.8% nationally.

Housing, apparel, transportation, recreation, and education and communication costs all rose faster for the Atlanta area than for the nation as a whole.

Costs for services increased 7.8% in the Atlanta area compared to 4.8% nationwide.

Costs for food and beverages and energy rose at a slower rate for Atlanta than for the nation. Energy costs rose at a slower rate in the Atlanta area due to lower increases in household fuels and utilities despite gasoline prices rising faster.

The news release for the national CPI is available at Consumer Price Index Summary - 2022 M02 Results (

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Last time oil prices peaked, Georgia fell into a recession. Can it happen again?

 With oil prices surging, it worth a look back at the last time Georgia’s economy faced this situation and how it unfolded. Georgia last faced a peak in oil prices and a decline in private sector employment in 2008, as the state and the nation fell into a recession that lasted 18 months from December 2007 to June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

After the 2001 recession

Private sector jobs fell from the onset of the recession in March 2001 until July 2003 (long after the recession officially ended) and then gained consistently until December 2007 nationally.

In Georgia, the turnaround began a couple of months earlier, in May 2003, and continued a steady climb up until January 2008. From May 2003 until January 2008, private sector employment grew by 262,000 jobs (8.16%). (All employment data are based on seasonally adjusted data supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

As the economy recovered, so did oil prices, but the increases did not hurt the jobs recovery in the early stages. Oil rose from around $26 a barrel in January 2003 until it peaked in July 2008 at $147.50. (In today’s dollars, that would translate to $188.53 per barrel.)

2008 to 2010

For Georgia beginning in January 2008, the upward trend in job creation reversed long before oil prices peaked. Between January 2008 and December 2010, the state saw a loss of 286,600 (-8.25%) private sector jobs from employers’ payrolls.

Among the major sectors, the construction industry saw the largest percentage decline in employment over that period, down by 32%, followed by manufacturing (-18%) and wholesale trade (-11.8%). In terms of net job losses, manufacturing carried the heaviest load, down 76,000 jobs over that period.

2010 to 2020

As the 2007-2009 recession eased, Georgia began again to regain jobs but again long after the recession had officially ended in June 2009. Between December 2010 and February 2020, the state added786,100 private sector jobs (24.67%), and sectors such as construction, which had shed so many jobs during and after the recession added back in 61,600 jobs (41.99%), although manufacturing employment recovery was much weaker, up by only 59,000 jobs (17.08%).

The largest net gain in jobs occurred in the professional and business services sector, which had lost a comparatively small 31,200 jobs during the recession only to gain 179,000 afterwards.

Equally impressive was the health care and educational services sector, which had actually added 27,100 jobs during the recessionary period, and then gained another 134,700 jobs in the recovery period.

2020 recession

In early 2020, layoffs and shutdowns related to the coronavirus slammed Georgia. Between February and April 2020, the state saw 592,800 jobs disappear (-14.92%).

Hardest hit was the leisure and hospitality sector, which had only suffered relatively minor layoffs during the previous recession. Over that two-month period in early 2020, 223,200 jobs in hospitality and leisure disappeared in Georgia. Other sectors with large losses included professional and business services (-80,100 jobs), heath care and educational services (-70,900 jobs), and retail (-67,600 jobs).

In comparison, construction, which had been so hard hit in the 2007-2009 recession, saw the loss of only 11,700 jobs (-5.62%), while manufacturing recorded 45,000 in job losses.

April 2020 to December 2021

After the devastating loss of so many jobs over only a few months, private sector jobs began a slow but significant recovery. From April 2020 to December 2021, Georgia saw 594,300 new jobs (17.58%) created in the private sector bringing the state back to where it stood pre-pandemic in February 2020.

Some sectors in the state have fully recovered to their pre-pandemic levels, including retail; transportation, warehousing, and utilities; information; financial activities; and professional and business services sectors.

Other sectors have not fully recovered their pre-pandemic employment levels with leisure and hospitality jobs 10% below and other services (which includes maintenance and repair jobs as well as personal care occupations) down 8% compared to February 2020.

Rising oil prices bringing on another recession?

It is too soon to judge whether another recession is on the horizon but a steady increase in oil prices beyond current levels, as happened in 2008, makes a recession a distinct possibility, especially if the oil prices continue to climb into the summer.

Whether a recession comes in 2022 depends on a combination of increasing oil prices plus higher interest rates plus some unforeseen variable that will cause people to become more pessimistic about the economic future.

At current inflation-adjusted prices, oil still sits far below its 2008 peak, and it will have to continue to move towards the $188 or above level to equal its impact in 2008.

This recession, if it comes, may be more driven by finances, as higher energy costs force people to cut back on more discretionary activities and higher interest rates makes borrowing prohibitively expensive. 

The 2007-2009 recession in Georgia saw the state lose in 35 months what it had taken 55 months to gain, as the state’s private sector employment rose by 262,000 jobs between 2003 and 2008 only to lose 286,600 jobs in the 2007-2009 recession.

If the state suffers the same percentage loss in the next recession, it will see a drop of 327,000 jobs, bringing it back to near its July 2020 levels. Better than its coronavirus-related 2020 recession but still a blow.

Related to the 2007-2009 recession, construction took the deepest percentage job loss, but that recession has been closely tied to overbuilding and easy mortgage financing prior to the downturn. In 2020, the leisure and hospitality sector received the most pain as people avoided travel and public contact in places such as restaurants, movies, and airlines.

As such,if a recession occurs, the recessionary impact on jobs may be more be more evenly spread out among the sectors with no sector losing more than 10% of its jobs. Of course, that will be of little comfort to the leisure and hospitality sector in the state, which has not yet fully recovered from the 2020 recession.

It pays to remain vigilant as higher oil prices and expected higher interest rates work their way through the economy and both consumers and businesses make decisions on how to allocate their resources to cover these higher costs along with the possibility of some unexpected variable that will cause people to change their opinion of their economic future.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Georgia Commissioner of Labor seat open as Mark Butler chooses not to seek re-election

 According to the Associated Press (AP), Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler will not seek a fourth term overseeing the state’s unemployment and job search system.

The Republican, in a memo to staff at the state Labor Department, wrote that it is “my intention to retire from politics at the end of my term to concentrate on family and new opportunities.”

Butler, who was a state House member from Carrollton for eight years before he was elected labor commissioner in 2010, said that the decision was motivated in part by a recurrence of his wife’s cancer after she had gone into remission in 2021.

The three-term commissioner was facing a tough re-election fight due to criticism of the Georgia Department of Labor for its handling of unemployment claims during the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

“I’m extremely proud of how the men and women of the Department of Labor stepped up and put in long hours taking on unbelievable odds during this pandemic,” Butler wrote in the memo

Challengers for the position in Georgia so far include: 

Kartik Bhatt

William Boddie

Lester Jackson

Bruce Thompson

 It remains to be seen if others will enter the race now that there is no incumbent in the race.

Georgia is the only state in the nation with an elected Labor Commissioner. In most states, the governor appoints the head of the state labor department and is directly responsible for the person fulfilling those duties.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Job openings and quits rates in Georgia remain at high levels in December

Job openings, hires, and layoffs and discharges rates showed little change over the month, while total separations and quits rates fell in December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job openings and quit rates in Georgia remained near record levels.

Job Openings

Georgia’s job openings rate showed little change in December, recording 403,000 openings on the last business day of the month for a job openings rate of 8.0%. Nationally, job opening rates increased in seven states, declined in four, and were little changed in the other states in December.

Compared to December 2020, the number of job openings in Georgia grew by 128,000 and the rate of job openings increased from 5.8% recorded in December 2020.


The number of hires in the state were virtually unchanged over the month. In Georgia, 238,000 hires were recorded in December for a rate of 5.1%. Hiring rates declined in six states and increased in one state over the month.

Compared to last December, the number of hires in Georgia grew by 44,000 with the hiring rate rising from 4.4% in December 2020 to 5.1 percent in December 2021.

Total Separations

Total separations fell by 39,000 in Georgia for December to 234,000 with the separations rate falling to 5.0%. In December, total separations rates fell in 15 states and increased in two states.

Compared to December 2020, total separations in Georgia increased by 26,000.


The number of quits in Georgia fell by 24,000 to 175,000 in December with the quits rate dropping to 3.8%. Nationally, quits rates fell in 13 states and increased in four states in December.

Compared to December 2020, the number of quits in Georgia rose by 36,000.

Layoffs and Discharges

Layoffs and discharges in the state were virtually unchanged in December with the layoffs and discharges totaling 50,000 for the month and the rate remaining at 1.1%. Layoffs and discharges rates decreased in 10 states and increased in one state in December.

Compared to a year ago, the number of layoffs and discharges in Georgia was virtually unchanged in December and the rate remained unchanged.

Definitions and additional technical information is available at State Job Openings and Labor Turnover Technical Note - 2021 M12 Results (

Monday, February 14, 2022

Home prices surge in north Georgia for 2021


Georgia home prices in the northern counties of the state surged in 2021 with many counties reporting increases above the national average of 18.5%.

Home prices in Clayton County rose 31.3% over the year followed by prices in Madison County growing by 30.3%.

Twenty-eight counties recorded home price increases from 20 to 30 percent, while 16 counties showed increases of 10 to 20 percent over the year.

Georgia’s largest county by population, Fulton County, recorded a below-average increase of 16.1%. DeKalb County posted a 15.3% increase, while Gwinnett County showed  an increase of 25.7% and Cobb County posted a 19.3% rise over the year.

Data provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which compiled information for 1,200 counties nationwide in conjunction with CoreLogic. For more information see

Home Price Increases, December 2020 to December 2021

Clayton County 31.3%

Madison County 30.3%

Jackson County 28.5%

Pickens County 28.5%

Fannin County 28.1%

Paulding County 26.4%

Barrow County 26.3%

Forsyth County 26.2%

Lumpkin County 26.2%

Bartow County 26.0%

Gwinnett County 25.7%

Gilmer County 25.6%

Henry County 25.6%

Hall County 25.3%

Newton County 25.1%

Rabun County 24.7%

Habersham County 24.1%

Union County 23.4%

Carroll County 23.2%

Cherokee County 23.0%

Walton County 22.5%

Coweta County 22.3%

Spalding County 22.3%

Douglas County 21.9%

Greene County 21.5%

Troup County 21.3%

Murray County 20.9%

Floyd County 20.5%

White County 20.5%

Clarke County 19.9%

Polk County 19.9%

Whitfield County 19.8%

Cobb County 19.3%

Catoosa County 19.2%

Gordon County 19.0%

Oconee County 19.0%

Rockdale County 19.0%

Walker County 18.8%

Fayette County 18.6%

Dawson County 17.9%

Fulton County 16.1%

DeKalb County 15.3%

Haralson County 15.3%

Butts County 10.8%

Thursday, February 3, 2022

December jobs data for Georgia hide losses in key sectors of the Atlanta job market


Georgia gained more than 24,000 jobs in December leaving the state fewer than 19,000 jobs below the level it achieved pre-pandemic in February 2020, but that overall number is hiding the ongoing losses in some specific job areas. (For the Atlanta area, the gain was 10,900 jobs, after seasonal adjustment.)

Using not seasonally adjusted data supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and comparing employment counts of February 2020 with the most recent data of December 2021, significant employment losses continue in the leisure and hospitality, other services, and government sectors. These losses centered on the Atlanta metropolitan area.

In the Atlanta area, employment in the leisure and hospitality area remains 35,300 below its February 2020 level with 26,300 of those lost jobs in the food services and drinking places industry. At this point it is difficult to discern how many of those missing jobs are due to the inability to fill positions at current wage levels, and how many are due to decreased activity by consumers who continue to cut back on their dining-out activities due to Covid concerns.

There is some evidence that the leisure and hospitality industry in Georgia is suffering worse than nationally because of a lack of consumer confidence about exposure to the coronavirus. Georgia’s decision to not enforce more restrictions, such as mask mandates or testing, may be damaging the industry in the Atlanta area when compared to the national data.

Other services is a catch-all sector that includes a diversity of industries. Compared to February 2020, in the Atlanta area employment is still 10,100 jobs below its previous level. Within this sector, repair and maintenance jobs are greater by 900 while personal and laundry employment is down by 3,100. This still leaves 12,300 jobs missing, which are most likely tied to the other segment of this sector – religious, grantmaking, civic, and professional organizations. A number of these organizations provide services to the community not provided by government or profit-seeking businesses, and it remains to be seen how long it will take employment in this industry to recover.

The third sector is government, with a net loss of 4,300 jobs compared to pre-pandemic. Both federal and state employment show gains of 2,700 and 500 respectively, since February 2020; but these gains are offset by a continued 7,500 job loss in local governments in the Atlanta area. Unless these jobs are restored, there is a danger that services provided by local governments will continue to underperform even as residents expect improved performance.

None of these losses are evident in the overall job numbers for the state, which proves why it is worthwhile to go below the headline numbers when looking at employment data.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Labor costs growing at a much slower rate than inflation in the Atlanta area

Slower rising labor costs good news for employers, but not for workers facing higher consumer prices 

Compensation costs for private industry workers in the Atlanta-Athens Combined Statistical Area increased 2.5 percent in 2021, according to newly released information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages and salaries for private industry workers rose 3.1 percent.

Earlier in the month, BLS released inflation data for 2021, and a comparison of the two reports shows that labor costs are rising at a much slower rate than consumer prices in the Atlanta area. BLS reported that consumer prices in the Atlanta metro area rose 9.7 percent in 2021.

For employers the slow rise in labor costs helps them offset some of the pressure coming from increasing producer prices, which rose 9.7 percent nationally.

The slower rise in wages and salaries, when compared to consumer prices, adds pressure on Atlanta area household budgets and incentivizes workers to search for ways to either lower their consumer costs or increase their compensation.

Both compensation costs and wages and salary costs in the Atlanta-Athens area were among the lowest increases recorded for 15 metro areas published by BLS.

The Seattle-Takoma, Wa, CSA showed the fastest increase in total compensation costs, up 6.3 percent over the year, while the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St Lucie, Fl, CSA recorded the fastest rise in wage and salary costs, moving up 6.0 percent over the year.

Nationally, compensation costs for private industry workers rose 4.4 percent in 2021, while wages and salary costs increased 5.0 percent.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Georgia December employment by the numbers

 State Employment and Unemployment - December 2021 - Seasonally Adjusted

Number employed 5,177,893

Number unemployed 5,041,987

Unemployment rate 2.6

Labor force participation rate 61.5

Employment-population rate 59.8

Net number of nonfarm jobs created over the month 24,200

Net number of nonfarm jobs created over the year 198,200

Percent change in nonfarm jobs over the year 4.5

For more detailed information and commentary, see 

Georgia’s lack of Covid restrictions hurting the state’s businesses and labor force

Friday, January 21, 2022

Georgia workers showing more optimism than employers about the future

 Number of Georgia workers quitting their jobs reached a new high in November, 2021

The number of Georgians quitting their jobs in November rose significantly, while the number of job openings fell, indicating that workers are feeling more confident about their financial futures than employers are feeling about future business conditions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released information for November 2021 indicating that the number of job openings in the state fell by 33,000 positions or 0.6 percentage points, while job openings nationwide fell 0.4 points.

Employers posting job openings can be interpreted as companies’ optimism about future economic conditions, as employers will add workers when they expect sustained business activity.

Georgia workers leaving their jobs in large numbers

Total separations, which includes retirements, firings, layoffs, and voluntary quits, rose by 57,000 in Georgia or 1.2 points. Nationally, separations rose 0.2 points.

More than 90 percent of those separations occurred as the result of voluntary quits by workers. In Georgia, 53,000 quits were recorded in November an increase of 1.2 percentage points from October. For the nation, the number of quits rose by 0.2 percent.

The rate of workers quitting in Georgia remained far higher than for the nation as a whole, with 4.5 percent of the workforce quitting in the state compared to 3.0 percent nationwide in November.

Interpreting the data

Economists interpret the choice of workers to voluntarily leave their jobs as an indicator of people’s confidence in their economic future.

Worker turnover can mean large headaches for employers, as it adds to training costs and higher wages to retain staff.

Increased economic confidence by workers can also be an indicator of increased consumer spending, as workers more confident about their future also tend to increased their expenditures.

For employers, lower number of job openings can mean that employers are responding to workers quitting by filling fewer vacancies or by using other means, such as more automation, to meet business needs in lieu of hiring more staff.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Atlanta Fed lowers GDP forecast for 4th Quarter 2021; says economy in Southeast expanded “moderately”


The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has lowered their forecast for the United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the last three months of 2021 to 5.0 percent.


"The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the fourth quarter of 2021 is 5.0 percent on January 14, down from 6.8 percent on January 10. After the January 10 GDPNow update and subsequent releases from the US Census Bureau, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, a decrease in the nowcast of fourth-quarter real personal consumption expenditures growth from 4.5 percent to 2.0 percent was slightly offset by an increase in the nowcast of fourth-quarter real gross private domestic investment growth from 17.8 percent to 18.1 percent. Also, the nowcast of the contribution of the change in real net exports to fourth-quarter real GDP growth decreased from 0.21 percentage points to 0.19 percentage points." 

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced that the nation’s GDP for the 3rd quarter of 2021 came in at 2.3 percent. 

Southeast economy expanding at a “moderate” pace 

The bank’s latest summary of economic activity found: 

"Economic activity in the Sixth District expanded moderately from mid-November through December, even amidst widespread outbreaks of the Omicron variant late in the reporting period. Demand for workers remained strong and labor market tightness persisted. Upward pressure on wages was widespread. Nonlabor costs grew, albeit at a slower pace. Retail sales were solid; auto sales, however, remained challenged due to supply chain constraints. Domestic leisure travel was strong. Business travel and convention bookings picked up somewhat, though increases in Omicron cases precipitated some postponements and cancellations in the near term. Robust housing demand continued. Conditions in commercial real estate improved. Manufacturing activity was healthy. Conditions at financial institutions were steady, though deposit levels declined, and loan demand slowed somewhat." 

·         Consumer spending was healthy, particularly for off-price retailers. Cruise ship business was strong, though passenger counts were lower than before the pandemic as cruise lines have continued to limit capacity.

·         Demand from investors and second-home buyers continued to make up a significant component of housing market demand.

·         Manufacturing contacts reported increased revenues and believe business will continue to improve this year, even as some expressed concerns about supply chain interruptions, labor shortages, and rising input costs.

·         Transportation stayed strong. Container volume grew at district seaports, and air cargo contacts noted increased demand because of surging ecommerce shipments.

·         Chemical manufacturing and petroleum refining improved. However, contacts continued to report that supply chain bottlenecks constrained some chemical production. 

The report for all the Federal Reserve banks on economic conditions for their districts can be found at

The next meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled for January 25-26, 2022.


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Inflation in the Atlanta area continues to outpace the nation, rising 9.8% in 2021

 Calendar year increase largest since beginning of local series in 1998

Consumer prices in the Atlanta area rose 1.9 percent for the two months ending in December 2021, according to new information released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The two-month increase rose at twice the pace of the nation, which posted a 0.8 percent increase.

For the 12 months ending in December 2021, consumer prices in the Atlanta area increased 9.8 percent, the largest calendar year increase since BLS began posting calendar year data for the Atlanta area in 1998. Nationally, consumer prices rose 7.0 percent over the year.

Index components

Food prices in the Atlanta area increased 0.9 percent over the past two months, moving up 2.6 percent over the year.

Consumer prices for energy rose 2.2 percent over the two-month period, increasing 28.6 percent since last December.

All items excluding food and energy increased 2.0 percent over the two months and rose 9.3 percent over the 12 months ending in December, the largest increase for that index since 1998.

Housing costs rose 1.8 percent over two months, as rental costs increased 1.6 percent and owners’ equivalent of residential rent moved up 1.7 percent. For 2021, housing costs in the Atlanta are rose 7.4 percent as rental costs increased 8.1 percent and owners’ equivalent of residential rent moved up 7.5 percent.

Consumer costs for gasoline increased 1.5 percent over two months. For 2021, costs for gasoline in the Atlanta area increased 55.7 percent.

Impact on consumers

For Atlanta area consumers, increases in prices without a corresponding increase in the value of the items being bought causes a drain on consumer finances. Various items in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers in the Atlanta metropolitan area (CPI-U, Atlanta) have different impacts depending on what percentage of their budget is devoted to each item.

For example, food represents approximately 15 percent of the average Atlanta area consumers’ purchases with 8.7 percent going to food at home and 6.3 percent to food away from home.

Housing costs including rent or mortgage, as well as utilities, represent 35.7 percent of the average household’s budget.

Transportation costs amount to 13.9 percent of the budget for the average household.