Showing posts with label army drawdown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label army drawdown. Show all posts

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Columbus, Georgia, employment problems larger than Fort Benning

When Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler boasted about Georgia’s job performance in June, he wasn’t thinking about the Columbus, Georgia, area.

While Georgia has added 121,600 jobs over the past 12 months, the Columbus area has added only 500 net new jobs, resulting in an increase of 0.4%. This compares with increases of 2.8% statewide and 1.8% for the nation.

At the same time, the Columbus area’s unemployment rate of 6.6% far exceeds the state’s 5.6% rate (not seasonally adjusted) and the nation’s 5.1% rate.

With the drawdown of soldiers at Fort Benning, some are focusing on this event as the reason for the Columbus area’s poor job numbers. 

The loss of soldiers and their families in the Columbus area will have an impact, but Columbus’s employment problems well preceded recent decisions by the Army.

Columbus has shown almost flat growth since the end of the recession in June 2009. Over that seven-year time period, the area has added only 4,000 net new jobs, fewer than 600 new jobs each year.

More than 40% of them (1,700) came in the relatively low paying leisure and hospitality sector.

Since June 2015, the Columbus area has seen net job losses in the mining, logging, and construction sector, as well as in manufacturing, financial activities, and the professional and business services industries. 

In comparison, while Columbus’s job growth rose by 0.4% over these past 12 months, the Atlanta area expanded by 2.7% and the Savannah area job market has shot ahead by rising 4.1%.

One area where the differences are obvious is in professional and business services. This industry that includes companies performing professional, scientific, and technical activities for others has been one of the Atlanta area’s fastest growing industries.

Over this past year, the sector expanded by 13,900 new jobs, rising 2.9%. In the Savannah area, the growth was even more pronounced as the smaller metro area added 1,900 jobs for growth rate of 10%.

In contrast, Columbus lost a net of 200 jobs over the same 12 month-period.

Even the banking and insurance sector has seen a decline with the Columbus area shedding 100 jobs in this sector. This is particularly remarkable given the area's traditional strength in financial activities, which includes insurance carriers and banks.

While the drawdown at Fort Benning will be a blow to the area’s future, it may prove to be a benefit to the Columbus area if it focuses local leaders on the larger problems they are facing with a stagnant economy even as other parts of the state and the nation are showing significant employment progress.