Showing posts with label georgia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label georgia. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Crippling Medicaid Cuts Could Upend Rural Health Services in Georgia



 


When her pregnancy hit a crisis, Ginger Peebles rushed to her hospital in Swainsboro, Ga., where daughter Brenlee Pepin was born healthy. But that hospital closed a year later, a casualty of the financial problems plaguing rural areas. (Family photo courtesy of Kimberly Howell)
ATLANTA — Each day as Ginger Peebles watches daughter Brenlee grow, she sees the importance of having a hospital close by that delivers babies.
Brenlee’s birth was touch-and-go after Peebles realized something was wrong. “I couldn’t feel the baby move, and my blood pressure was sky-high,” said Peebles, a nurse.
Dr. Roslyn Banks-Jackson, then an OB-GYN specialist at Emanuel Medical Center in Swainsboro, Ga., diagnosed preeclampsia, a potentially lethal complication of pregnancy, and induced labor to save Peebles and the baby. Brenlee was born on Oct. 28, 2014, completely healthy.
Had Peebles given birth the following year, she might not have been so fortunate, she said. Emanuel shuttered its labor-and-delivery unit the next spring, becoming one of a handful of such units in the state to close from 2010 to 2015, most because of budget problems. Another is expected to close this month, said Daniel Thompson, executive director of the Georgia OBGyn Society.Republican bills to replace the federal health law would worsen rural areas’ financial straits through reductions in Medicaid funding. Patient advocates predict that would lead to fewer enrollees, more shutdowns of rural facilities, reduced payments to doctors and fewer programs for people with health needs or disabilities. In the aggregate, such changes threaten the health of thousands of state residents, especially those in rural areas.
“I’ve seen changes, and I’ve seen cuts, but I’ve never seen changes like what’s being proposed in this bill,” said Eric Jacobson, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. “This is the first time it’s been this scary.”
Possible Strains On A Lean Budget
One of the key aims of the House and Senate bills is reversing the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid. But the legislation also would institute changes to the federal-state health program for low-income residents that could devastate states such as Georgia that didn’t expand Medicaid. Georgia already ranks 45th in the nation in per capita Medicaid spending, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
The bills would switch Medicaid from an entitlement — in which the federal government agrees to pay its share of costs for anyone who qualifies for the program — to a system in which the federal government by 2020 would limit its payments and reimburse states based on a per capita formula.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded in a report released June 29 that the Senate plan would slash 35 percent of expected federal Medicaid funding by 2036.
“Cuts now would cripple rural Georgia,” said Dr. Ben Spitalnick, president of the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
He said that is because most primary care visits, which include OB-GYN, pediatric and adult care, in the state’s sparsely populated areas rely heavily on Medicaid reimbursements.
The federal cutbacks would have to be offset by the state. But that means taking money from other programs or raising taxes. As a result, state officials facing those shortfalls would likely scale back an already lean Medicaid coverage.
“If you cut back, [people] still go to the hospital, they’ll still need care. No matter what you do, the buck stops somewhere,” said Renee Unterman, a Republican state senator who chairs the health and human services committee. In the end, she added, the cost for that uncompensated care gets passed to taxpayers and consumers through higher health costs and insurance premiums.
Georgia’s rural hospitals have proved vulnerable. Five closed in the past five years and another two merged. Plus, several have closed their emergency rooms.
That translates to a loss of doctors in affected counties. Of Georgia’s 159 counties, 79 do not have an OB-GYN specialist, and 65 do not have a pediatrician, according to 2015 figures from the Georgia AAP and the Georgia OBGyn Society.
Close to 1.7 million Georgians, or nearly 1 in 5 state residents, live in these areas, according to figures from the Rural Health Information Hub.
Improving Pay For Doctors
For 15 years, Georgia Medicaid reimbursed primary care doctors at only 60 percent of the amount that the federal Medicare program reimbursed similar services, said Ward.
But in 2015, the Legislature implemented three rounds of pay increases to primary care doctors, including pediatricians and OB-GYNs, to bring them in line with the Medicare reimbursement.
Many of these doctors are now concerned those rates would be the first to be lowered. “That’s our big fear,” said Rick Ward, executive director of the Georgia chapter of the AAP. “We just clawed our way back and to deal with it again would just be unbelievable.”
Key among those concerns are prenatal care in rural areas. With a maternal mortality rate that is among the worst in the country, OB-GYNs are worried that the cuts would eliminate fragile solutions to doctor shortages that the state has implemented.
For example, pregnant, low-income women in 17 counties around Augusta can arrange for a ride in a van, paid for by Medicaid, for their prenatal visits at the medical school at Augusta University. The service has been vital in keeping these women healthy and insuring successful births. Advocates fear it is the type of program that could face problems if Medicaid funding becomes tight.
People With Disabilities Fearful
Advocates for residents with disabilities worry that home health care would be likely to suffer from the cuts.
That’s because while states are required under Medicaid to pay for nursing home stays, care for people living at home has been optional.
About 38,000 people in the state get the services, also called community-based benefits. Qualifying takes years, and benefits are not guaranteed, even for people who are eligible. Almost 10,000 Georgians are on the waiting list, according to Jacobson, because there is not enough money in the Medicaid budget to cover everyone.
One of those who is getting coverage is Joshua Williams, 22, who has severe cerebral palsy and needs constant care at home and school.
“I’m terrified” that funding cuts could end the program, said his mother, Mitzi Proffitt, 53. “I’d have to quit my job” to take care of him. Williams’ stepfather, Jack Proffitt, 65, has advanced cancer and cannot provide much assistance.Nursing home or institutional care for a year, on average, is $172,280, said Jacobson, while the average home health care is $28,901.
Williams, who is on the dean’s list at East Georgia State College in Swainsboro and loves NASCAR, also admits to being “very scared.” He said if his coverage is discontinued, he would have to drop out of college, ruining his hopes of becoming a sports broadcaster. He is eager to get a part-time job until he graduates.
“I want to work. I don’t want handouts,” he said.
A supporter of President Donald Trump’s, Williams said he is counting on the president to keep disability benefits in place and to ensure that health care is affordable for all.
“He thinks that if Trump knew his story, he’d get on this and fix things,” said Mitzi Proffitt.
“I like him because he’s a businessman, but he said he has heart,” Williams added.
Joshua Williams, who receives home health care services through Medicaid, is worried about funding changes being considered by Congress. But he is counting on President Donald Trump to keep disability benefits in place because “he said he has heart.” (Photo by Virginia Anderson/KHN)

This story was originally published by Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Federal statistical agency confirms that Georgia had even a better job growth record than originally reported

After reviewing 2015 jobs data, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has boosted Georgia by additional 27,600 new jobs in 2015. The total brings the state’s job growth up to 118,700 for the last calendar year.

With the adjustment, Georgia’s nonfarm employment at the end of 2015 stood at 4,330,100 jobs – a new record.

Georgia Nonfarm Employment, Jan. 1990 - Jan. 2016, Seasonally Adjusted
The increase means that Georgia’s job growth rate rose from a preliminary figure of 2.2 percent to a final figure of 2.8 percent placing Georgia with the 3rd highest job growth rate among large states in 2015. In 2014, the state recorded a 3.4 percent growth rate.

Only Florida, which grew by 3.2 percent, and California, which grew by 3.1 percent, showed better percentage gains in new jobs among the nation’s 11 largest states.

While impressive, the state’s job growth in 2015 was its second best in this century, still falling short of its 2014 level when Georgia added 137,600 new jobs. Prior to 2014, the last time the state experienced this level of growth was in 1999 when it added 122,400 jobs over the calendar year.

Georgia ended the calendar year with an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, its lowest unemployment rate for a calendar year since 2007. Over the year, the state’s labor force grew by 38,037 as 80,479 more people found employment and the number of unemployed dropped by 42,442.

Even as the state’s unemployment rate has dropped from double digits during the most recent recession to single digit numbers, Georgia’s labor force has shown little change, a situation that is showing up in labor numbers across the nation. Economists are unsure of the reason for the slow growth of the labor force although some attribute it to an increasing number of retirees as baby boomers retire.

Atlanta Metro Area

The Atlanta area continues to be the state’s main growth engine adding 70,400 jobs in 2015. The metro area’s rate of job growth did slow in 2015, equaling the state’s job growth rate of 2.8 percent but slower than the growth rates recorded for the metro area in 2014 (4.2 percent) and 2013 (3.2 percent).

As of the end of calendar year 2015, the Atlanta metro area was base for 2,622,600 jobs, more than 60 percent of the state’s total nonfarm employment.

Over the calendar year, the metro area accounted for 59 percent of the state’s new jobs.

Each spring, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ nonfarm payroll estimates for states and metropolitan areas are revised as a result of annual benchmark processing to reflect 2015 employment counts primarily from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. These changes are reflected in this release.




Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Atlanta maintains 4th place in job growth in August

Atlanta grew 4th fastest among the 10 largest metro areas in the U.S. in August, despite adding only 600 jobs over the month according to newly released seasonally adjusted preliminary jobs data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the year, the Atlanta area gained 69,800 new jobs. Ahead of Atlanta in terms of job creation came Los Angeles (+122,400), New York (+116,800), and Dallas (+106,100).

Among the largest metro areas, Dallas recorded the largest percentage gain, up 3.2% followed by Atlanta at 2.8%.

Georgia Metro Areas

In Georgia, the Gainesville area recorded the largest increase in jobs in August, adding 800 new jobs, followed by the Atlanta area, which added 600.

Gainesville and Atlanta areas each grew by 2.8% over the year ending in August, while the Savannah area grew by 2.7%.

Over the year, four metro areas in Georgia recorded decreases in net employment. They include Brunswick (-200), Hinesville (-200), Albany (-700), and Valdosta (-1,100).

A total of five Georgia metro areas are still recording employment counts below where they stood in 2007 before the recession including Albany, Brunswick, Dalton, Rome, and Valdosta.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Effects of Department of Labor's overtime plan more dramatic in Georgia

A new analysis conducted for the National Retail Federation shows that new rules on overtime proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor would particularly affect management and professional employees in low-wage states and in rural areas where income and the cost of living are lower than the national average.



The Athens Banner-Herald is reporting that under the proposal, most individuals making up to $970 a week anywhere in the country would automatically receive overtime pay at time-and-a-half when working more than 40 hours a week, up from the current $455. The Labor Department chose $970 under a formula intended to give overtime to the lowest-paid 40 percent of full-time workers nationwide who currently receive a fixed salary.

But in 10 states – Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas – that dollar figure would bring at least 45 percent of full-time salaried workers under overtime rules. Another eight states – Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia – would see at least 50 percent covered. The figure works out to the intended 40 percent in only one state, Maine.

The salary threshold would also be indexed, raising it to $1,400 by 2017 under one option proposed by the Labor Department. Within three years, only 22 percent of current salaried workers would remain exempt from overtime.

“This proposal has been spun as a way to raise the income of struggling workers but there are places where bankers or stockbrokers could be turned into hourly workers,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said. “The Labor Department has ignored the fact that the cost-of-living varies throughout the country.”

Monday, September 14, 2015

New bioscience training center opens in Social Circle, Ga.

State officials formally marked the grand opening of a new $14 million Georgia Bioscience Training Center on Sep. 10 in Newton County.



Located directly across from the site of Baxalta’s $1 billion biomanufacturing facility in Social Circle, Ga., the training center is designed to meet Baxalta’s workforce training needs and includes flexible space to accommodate the training needs of additional life sciences companies that choose to locate or expand in Georgia. The training center is owned by the State of Georgia and operated by Georgia Quick Start, a division of the Technical College System of Georgia.

“A skilled, professionally trained and qualified workforce is essential for Georgia to usher in a new era of bioscience industry,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “The BioScence Training Center is a showcase destination where biotech prospects and industry groups can see the level of support and training expertise Georgia can provide. Operated by Quick Start, the No. 1 workforce training program in the country, this first-of-its-kind training center offers companies a great opportunity to secure a qualified workforce and offers Georgians resources and support to ensure their success in these high performance jobs.”

“Our employees are the core of this mission,” said senior vice president and head of global operations of Baxalta John Furey. “With Georgia Quick Start’s help, we will continue to attract and train top-talent in the area to join our Baxalta team.”

The facility features custom-made technology that simulates Baxalta’s biomanufacturing processes such as centrifugation, chromatography, nanofiltration and aseptic filling. It also has space for the aseptic production of pharmaceutical-grade clinical samples. Additionally, the training center is equipped to deliver training on a wide range of advanced manufacturing technologies including mechatronics, metrology and process controls.

“This is a significant milestone in Georgia’s growth as a premier location for biomanufacturing, and solidifies the state’s commitment to the life science industry,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Carr. “To be able to offer biotech companies access to customized training and one-of-a-kind equipment gives us a major competitive advantage in the global marketplace.”

Baxalta was spun off from Baxter International in July. It is currently fighting attempts by Shire PLC, which launched a takeover bid in August.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Atlanta grows, while Georgia slows

Fast growth in the Atlanta metro area contrasts with slower growth in the rest of the state
Metro Atlanta’s job market remained strong in July as the area added 13,200 new jobs over the month.

For the 12 months ending in July, the area’s employment has increased by 75,800, placing it 4th in job growth among the nation’s largest population centers after the Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas areas, according to new seasonally adjusted data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By population, the Atlanta region ranks 9th.

While the Atlanta region’s growth remained robust, conditions in the rest of Georgia slowed. Outside the Atlanta metro area, the state recorded its 5th consecutive month of job losses, dropping 8,600 jobs in July.

From March through July, the Atlanta region has seen the addition of 26,700 new jobs, while the rest of the state has recorded a loss of 20,600 jobs.

Due to this divergence, the Atlanta region has grown by 3.0% over the past 12 months, while the state has recorded a 2.1% growth rate.

With the recent slowdown, the state’s annual job growth dropped from 6th place in June to 8th place in July among the 50 states. For the 12 months ending in July, the state added 89,400 nonfarm jobs. This contrasts with the 130,700 jobs it added in the 12 months ending in July 2014.

Other Georgia Metro Areas

There continues to be pockets of strength outside of the 29-county Atlanta metro area with Savannah adding 4,000 jobs over the past 12 months for a 2.4% growth rate.

The Dalton area continued its recovery from the recession with a 2.6% annual growth rate, while Brunswick recorded an annual increase of 2.4%. Despite the recent rebound in their economies, employment in both Dalton and Brunswick remain below their pre-2007 levels.

Among metro areas in the state, Valdosta recorded the largest 12-month decline in July, shedding 1,200 jobs for a loss of 2.2% since July 2014.

The Atlanta metro area is defined as including Barrow, Bartow, Butts, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Haralson, Heard, Henry, Jasper, Lamar, Meriwether, Morgan, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Rockdale, Spalding, and Walton counties.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Police in Metro Atlanta and Georgia underpaid?

Pay for police in Georgia is around the lowest in the nation.

In 2014, police officers in the Atlanta metro area received average annual pay of $41,430, well below the average pay for comparable work done by officers in the Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas, Texas, metropolitan areas according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics.

In the Charlotte area, police received an average of $48,150, while in the Dallas area officers were paid an average of $59,840. Both areas have been used by the AJC as benchmarks to compare Atlanta’s economic progress over the past year.

Low pay in the Atlanta Police Department has been highlighted in news articles running in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that have focused on Atlanta police officers’ effort to gain a pay raise under Mayor Kasim Reed.

The low pay is showing up in turnover and lower morale among APD officers according to people interviewed by the AJC.

Police Statewide Georgia

While some officers may choose to switch to other jurisdictions in the state for higher pay, the unfortunate reality is that the low pay for Atlanta officers also reflects the low pay statewide for police in Georgia, which averaged $38,250.

In 2014, only Mississippi, with salaries averaging $32,740, reported lower average pay for police officers statewide than Georgia.  Pay for police in Arkansas at $37,730 and South Carolina at $38,630 were comparable to pay in Georgia.

Average salaries for police in the other 46 states all exceeded the average pay in Georgia.
For police looking to relocate to a higher paying state, New Jersey recorded the highest average pay for police at $88,530. Other states with high average pay included California, Alaska, New York, and Washington.

Firefighters

While pay for firefighters in the Atlanta metro area and statewide Georgia is also low, their pay relative to other areas is less dramatic.

Firefighters in the Atlanta metro area averaged $35,640 in 2014, while those employed in the Charlotte area averaged $34,930 and those employed in the Dallas metro received $50,390.

Statewide, Georgia firefighters averaged $33,810, and although among the 10 lowest paid in the nation, still equal or above 8 other states, including West Virginia, which recorded the nation’s lowest pay at $29,180.

New Jersey firefighters came in highest at $77,550 followed by firefighters in New York, California, and Washington.


Friday, August 28, 2015

GSU Economist sees improved job growth for Georgia and Atlanta area

In his “Forecast of Georgia and Atlanta,” released Aug. 27, Rajeev Dhawan of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business believes that the state’s decelerating job growth will reverse in the second half of 2015.

“As global economic health stabilizes, consumers demonstrate a greater propensity to spend and corporate spending resumes, Peach State job growth will accelerate to 2.6 percent for the 2015 calendar year,” Dhawan said.

The corporate sector is faring well in Georgia and Atlanta. Statewide, the sector posted a 7.2 percent gain in the second quarter, “pointing to momentum moving forward,” the forecaster said. Furthermore, the move of several headquarters to Atlanta continues to result in professional and business services hiring.

“Although this sector is enduring weaker global growth, domestic consumption is taking up any shortfalls,” Dhawan said.

The forecaster is predicting that Georgia employment will gain
·       82,900 jobs in calendar year 2015
·       87,500 jobs in 2016
·       94,100 jobs in 2017

This would mean slower growth than in the past two years. As a comparison using seasonally adjusted data, in 2013, the state added 95,500 jobs and in 2014 increased by an additional 146,500 jobs. 

Over the 12 months ending in July, the state has added 89,400 jobs (seasonally adjusted) as rapid growth in the first 6 months was followed by a marked slowdown in the most recent 6-month period.

For the Atlanta metro area, Dr. Dhawan see the addition of
·       62,400 jobs in calendar year 2015
·       63,300 jobs in 2016
·       65,500 jobs in 2017

In 2013, the Atlanta metro area added 77,600 jobs and in 2014 added 97,200 jobs.

Dhawan said millennials, who constituted 23.6 percent of metro Atlanta’s population in the 2010 census, are making their influence felt in several regards.


“To no one’s surprise,” he said, “millennials are fueling demand for multi-family housing. They’re also spurring area companies to relocate to downtown and Midtown in order to draw on their high-tech skills.”

“I expect the area’s information sector to continue to expand in coming years as it benefits from a robust fiber optic infrastructure, relatively low-cost electricity generation and a reliable power grid,” Dhawan said.

Attracting young, technologically savvy talent is one of the reasons that healthcare added almost 3,500 jobs in the first half of 2015. For the full year, this sector will add 8,100 jobs.

Although growth in the metro area’s hospitality and transportation sectors slowed somewhat in the first half of the year, both will benefit from the spillover of domestic demand growth in catalyst sectors (corporate, healthcare, technology and manufacturing) for a combined total of 12,800 jobs in 2015.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Georgia loses court decision on overtime and minimum wage protection for home care workers

The Associated Press is reporting that a federal appeals court on Friday ruled in favor of Obama administration regulations that guarantee overtime and minimum wage protection to nearly 2 million home care workers.

Nine states, including Georgia, had opposed the rules. Samuel Olens, Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General for the State of Georgia, had filed a brief arguing that the changes would increase state Medicaid costs and expose states to an unfunded liability.

The ruling was a victory for worker advocacy groups, labor unions, and the White House. The Labor Department had proposed the regulations after the Obama White House had been unable to persuade Congress to change the law that exempts home care workers from full coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Labor Department issued a statement saying “Today's decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is vital to nearly two million home care workers, who will now qualify for minimum wage and overtime protections. The decision confirms this rule is legally sound. And just as important, the rule is the right thing to do — both for employees, whose demanding work merits these fundamental wage guarantees, and for recipients of services, who deserve a stable and professional workforce allowing them to remain in their homes and communities.”

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a lower court decision in the case and said the Labor Department has the power to interpret the law to change that exemption.

The AP story cites Judge Sri Srinivasan as saying that a "dramatic transformation" of the home care industry over the past four decades as a valid reason for the change. While most caregivers used to be directly employed by individual households, the vast majority of workers now work for staffing companies that service hundreds or thousands of customers, Srinivasan said.

He also noted a massive shift to providing care for the elderly in their own homes rather than in nursing homes, which requires workers to offer more advanced medical care and assistance to clients than the mere "companionship" services envisioned in 1974.

Implementation of the regulations will be delayed, as there is a 45-day window to allow the home care associations to seek a rehearing before the full court.

You can read the full decision here.

Union wins election at PruittHealth-Virginia Park



The RWDSU has announced that it won a union organizing election held on Aug. 20 to represent health care workers at PruittHealth-Virginia Park.



The election was held by secret ballot under the supervision of the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to determine the representative, if any, desired by the eligible employees for purposes of collective bargaining with their employer.

A majority of the valid ballots cast determined the results of the election.

The voting unit consisted of all full time and regular part time CNA’s, restorative aides, activity assistants, medical record clerks, and service and maintenance employees employed by the employer at its facility located at 1000 Briarcliff Road N.E., Atlanta, Ga., but excluding all RNs, LPNs, charge nurses, confidential employees, professionals, office clerical employees, guards and supervisors as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.

Workers were organized by Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union/UFCW Southeast Council.
PruittHealth-Virginia Park was represented by David Garraux and Marvin Weinberg of Fox Rothschild LLP.

In June, PruittHealth announced its official expansion in Atlanta by purchasing the Briarcliff Haven Healthcare and Rehab Center.

PruittHealth-Virginia Park spans 3.6 acres in an area of Atlanta known as Virginia-Highland. The facility includes a 40,302 square foot building and offers post-acute care services to 128 beds and 18 specialty vent beds.

At the time of the purchase announcement, Neil L. Pruitt, Jr., Chairman and C.E.O. of PruittHealth, said, "We are very pleased to welcome PruittHealth-Virginia Park into our PruittHealth family of providers. It is always exciting to expand our organization in other areas of the Southeast, and I am confident that we can build upon the solid foundation of health care services and resources that we have already integrated in the state of Georgia as a whole."

According to the company’s statements, PruittHealth has more than 170 provider locations throughout Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and one center in Florida. The company claims that on any given day, 24,000 patients are cared for by PruittHealth's 16,000 employees.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has written that the Pruitt family was among Governor Deal's largest campaign donors in his successful re-election bid last year.


PruittHealth has not yet issued a statement concerning the union election.

Too good to be true? Georgia’s unemployment rate of 6.0 % in July

Rate is likely more than half a percentage point higher than reported.

Georgia’s unemployment rate fell to 6.0 % in July, the lowest since May 2008, according to seasonally adjusted data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unfortunately, the drop reflects people leaving the labor force in June and July rather than increase in employment.

Looking at the not seasonally adjusted data, last year Georgia’s labor force grew by 34,057 in June and July. This year, the state’s labor force actually dropped by 5,159 over the same two months. Given the state’s natural population growth rate, this seems unlikely to be due to demographic factors.

The formula used for seasonal adjustment expects a larger labor force in the summer from high school and college graduates as well young workers who are out of school for the summer. When that does not occur, it can throw off the unemployment rate.

With the non-seasonally adjusted data taking an unexpected dive, the formula resulted in a seasonally adjusted drop of nearly 30,000 people. It is as if everyone that had joined the labor force from Jan. 1 to July suddenly dropped out.

If the 30,000 people in June and July had not dropped out of the labor force but been added to the unemployed list instead, the seasonally adjusted rate would have stood at 6.6 % in July.

Why the decline in the labor force?

Explanations for the change in labor force between summers of 2014 and 205 include (1) people are leaving the state in record numbers [highly unlikely], (2) it is a statistical fluke that will be reversed in future months [somewhat likely], or (3) people not working this summer did not search for work [somewhat likely].

It is possible that over the summer, an abnormally large number of older individuals chose to retire [also highly unlikely].

More likely, younger workers who normally find summer jobs either were unable to work in the summer months or chose not to work.

There is anecdotal information that the lower labor force was due to a combination of younger workers taking additional education over the summer months rather than searching for work, as well as a lack of summer jobs this year. If younger workers knew that summer employment programs were unable to meet demand, they may have decided to not even try to find jobs.

By dropping out of the labor force rather than looking for work, the labor force shrinks, the number of officially unemployed persons falls, and the unemployment rate looks artificially low.

Looking ahead

The seasonal adjustment formula expects fewer workers in the labor force, as students return to school in August and September. This should cause the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to rise in August and September. (Georgia schools begin classes relatively early in August, so some of the effect should show in August numbers.)

We shall look forward to see if the state’s unemployment rate turns higher in August and September that will either validate or invalidate our theory.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

U.S. job creation catches up with Georgia in July

12-month job growth falls below 100,000 for first time in 17 months

Georgia saw the creation of 6,400 net new jobs in July 2015, according to preliminary seasonally adjusted data released today by the Georgia Department of Labor.

The new information also included a revision that wiped out all the jobs reported in the prior month. 

In June, the labor department announced that 2,300 jobs were added. With the revision, it is now reporting that the state actually lost 4,100 jobs in June.

Among industries in the state in July, retailing (+2,800), professional and business services (+3,100), and local government (+4,300) were significant contributors to the state’s job growth.


Losses occurred mainly in private educational services (-2,100) and state government (-2,400).

Annual job creation slows

For the 12 months ending in July, the state saw 89,400 jobs created, an increase of 2.1 %.

As a result of slower employment growth, 12-month job growth fell below 100,000 for the first time in 17 months. July marked the first time since the beginning of 2013 that state job growth did not exceed the national average.

In some states, like North Dakota, their jobs slowdown can be partially attributed to falling oil prices that have resulted in layoffs in oil and gas production. Since Georgia has little oil and gas, its employment is unaffected by reductions in oil and gas production, and the state’s economy should be benefiting from lower energy costs. Instead, it is recording a marked slowdown.
Metro Areas are key

The Atlanta metro area created 13,200 jobs in July, and the Savannah area saw another 2,000 jobs added. Other metro areas with positive job growth included Albany (+400), Athens (+100), Brunswick (+100), Columbus (+600), Dalton (+200), and Rome (+100).

Metro areas reporting seasonally adjusted declines in July included Augusta (-500), Gainesville (-1,000), Hinesville (-300), Macon (-1,000), and Valdosta (-700).

While the Atlanta metro area is home to approximately 61 % of jobs in Georgia, it has been responsible for almost 85 % of the state’s job growth over the past 12 months.

Unemployment rate

The state’s unemployment rate stood at 6.0 % in July compared to 7.3 % in July 2014 as the state’s labor force continues to shrink.

While many see a lower unemployment rate as a positive sign for the economy, when drops occur due to people leaving the labor market, it can be a negative indicator.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Where did Zippia go wrong?


Web site names Cochran, Dublin among worst places to find work in Georgia

Zippia lists themselves as career experts. They may be but they are not experts in labor statistics. In July, they published “These Are The 10 Worst Places In Georgia To Get A Job”.

Unsurprisingly, officials in some of those cities and towns were not pleased to see their localities appear on that list.

"Dublin is the regional hub for about 15 counties in Middle Georgia from a labor and employment standpoint. So if there's been a more successful community for job creation in this state, I'd like to know about it," according to Brad Lofton, development authority president in Dublin, as quoted by WMGT-TV.

On its website, Zippia says it used the following criteria to determine its list:

·       Unemployment rate
·       Recent job growth
·       Future job growth
·       Sales Tax
·       Median household income

So how did Zippia use statistics to come to its misleading conclusions?

Unemployment rate

Confusing employment with jobs is a common mistake. The unemployment rate is determined by an estimate based on households. By definition, it measures where people live, not where they work.

It is much better to measure relative job opportunities by looking at the number of jobs growing or declining in an area, not the number of people employed in that area.  

Cochran Mayor Michael Stoy makes a good point in the same story when he says, "We are looking at a large percentage of our population that goes up to Warner Robins."

When BLS or the Georgia Department of Labor counts a new job, that job is counted in the community where it is created. When a statistical agency counts the number of employed or unemployed, they are counted based on where the people live not where they work.

For example, my neighborhood, in a suburb of Atlanta, has only houses in it, so by definition, it would be regarded as a bad place to get a job since the neighborhood is residential with no businesses. Residents have jobs outside the neighborhood, so their jobs are counted where they go to work. If they commute to Atlanta, the job is counted as located in Atlanta, but they are counted as employed in my neighborhood. If a resident loses a job in Atlanta, they would be counted as unemployed where they live, in my neighborhood in this example, not in the City of Atlanta.

There is an undeserved negative connotation in listing a place as “worse to get a job” if the people in that area commute elsewhere for employment. Unless you believe that everyone should work out of their homes, using unemployment statistics to measure job growth is a poor choice.

Recent job growth

Recent job growth (or decline) should be the number one, and perhaps, only criteria to determine “worst places to get a job.” It is hard to know the data used by the site in determining job numbers because they are very general in their description.

For example, it says about Fitzgerald, Ga., “The city ranks as having the weakest recent job growth.” 

Hard to judge based on that general statement, which is more definitive than some of the statements for other cities and towns on the list. Here is where hard numbers and some definitions would help.

Future job growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces an occupational outlook for the United States, and the Georgia Department of Labor produces a similar report for Georgia. 

Beyond these two reports, job forecasting for small cities and towns is much more problematic.

It is true that smaller areas in Georgia have not seen the growth of the larger metro areas such as Atlanta, and that is worrying, but it is difficult, if not impossible to accurately forecast growth for a particular small area.

This is even truer for smaller areas, because an area with a small employment base can be radically affected by the opening or closure of one establishment. I also don’t know how much into the future they are attempting to forecast, but it is hard to make an accurate forecast of job growth in a small area beyond 6 months.

It is easier to forecast larger areas, such as states, than smaller areas like communities where small changes can have large impacts.

Sales tax

I have no idea how sales tax relates to getting a job, and I don’t know if they are speaking about the amount of sales tax or the growth rate of the tax. I am sure the site has some way of using these data, but it is not obvious.

Median household income

Poorer areas tend to have fewer services, and jobs in poor areas tend to pay less. That impacts the salaries for jobs, but not the number of jobs themselves. The “study” was to be about the worst places to find a job, not a study of the areas with the lowest paying jobs. 

The two criteria are not the same. Georgia is growing faster than many states with higher median household income. 

Hopefully, the web site does a better job of finding employment for people than giving advice.

Job losses in Georgia counties

Below are two tables that may be more useful than the information provided by Zippia. 

The first shows the largest net job losses for Georgia counties in 2014. The second shows the largest percentage job losses in Georgia counties in 2014. There is some overlap, but many of the counties on each list are different, as you might expect. Both tables are looking back on 2014, not forecasting the future.

As a comparison using the same source, Georgia, as a state, added 147,335 job in 2014 for a growth rate of 3.7%.

Table A. Net job losses in calendar year 2014

Baldwin -708
Colquitt -453
Telfair -338
Dawson -255
Upson -253
Thomas -242
Marion -200
Stephens -199
Dodge -165
Elbert -151

Table B. Percentage job losses in calendar year 2014

Marion -12.8%
Talbot -10.2%
Telfair -9.0%
Wheeler -8.9%
Heard -6.4%
Clay -4.8%
Twiggs -4.5%
Baldwin -4.5%
Glascock -4.3%
Webster -4.0%

Data obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.








Sunday, August 9, 2015

AT&T and CWA workers in Georgia continue negotiations after contract expires

August 9, 2015, statement by the Communications Workers of America District 3, as 28,000 AT&T Southeast workers continue without a contract while negotiations continue.
Atlanta -- Today we are continuing negotiations with AT&T.  The issues that AT&T workers are facing have a direct impact on our communities and our families. We are your friends and neighbors, and our communities are important to us.  Often times in contract negotiations, we hear only about money.
But these negotiations are about respect, a better quality of family life and keeping good jobs in our communities.
AT&T is a very profitable company and our members do deserve to be compensated fairly.
But something that’s very important to workers at AT&T is a chance to spend more time with their families. Right now, AT&T forces employees to work an unlimited amount of overtime hours. That’s excessive and keeps parents from spending time with their children and balancing their work and family lives.
AT&T workers serve our customers on a daily basis and are the backbone and the face of this company. We all want to be treated with dignity and respect in the work place. That’s what these negotiations are all about.
AT&T is an extremely profitable company, with second quarter revenues topping $33 billion.  AT&T also recently completed a $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV.  Workers are being very reasonable, but AT&T is following a greedy agenda. Workers are committed to getting a fair contract and are holding actions and building support in communities throughout the nine southeastern states. It’s time for AT&T to do the right thing, and that’s to treat employees fairly.     

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Georgia AFL-CIO throws its weight behind Bennett in special election



Georgia’s AFL-CIO is making a determined effort to see that Democratic candidate Taylor Bennett wins the state’s House District 80 race.

Charlie Flemming, president of the Georgia AFL-CIO, wrote in an email, "We need your help in encouraging the working families and union members in the district to turnout for this election!"

Union leaders plan to canvass for Bennett on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Union membership in Georgia is relatively small, less than 5 % of workers in the state, but that still represents approximately 170,000 people.

Special elections tend to attract few voters, so attempts to bring out voters for one candidate can have a disproportionate effect on outcomes.

Democrat Taylor Bennett and Republican J. Max Davis will meet in an Aug. 11 runoff election after neither won more than 50 % of the votes cast in a July 14 special election.

House District 80 covers Brookhaven and portions of Sandy Springs, Chamblee and Dunwoody.

The seat became vacant when Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Rep. Mike Jacobs to the DeKalb County State Court bench in May.

For more information on Georgia AFL-CIO’s Saturday event, click here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Lower gas prices are good for Atlanta economy


Most will benefit but the impact is mixed
Low gas prices may lead to no raise in Social Security

Anyone filling up at the pump has noticed the drop in gas prices. The government reports that gasoline prices in the Atlanta area in June dropped 21 % from a year ago, and that report comes before more recent price decreases at local gas stations.

The lower prices are appearing due to an oversupply of oil nationally and despite a higher state gas tax here in Georgia.

That is good news for motorists who can spend less on fuel but determining how lower gas prices impact the larger economy is harder to calculate.

There is certainly a psychological boost to seeing a drop in prices, but there are also some very real measurable advantages.

For instance, motor fuel represents about 6 % of expenditures for the average Atlanta household, so a 21 % drop in costs translates to roughly a little more than a 1 % increase in disposable income.

The current personal savings rate in the U.S. is 4.8 %, so if the typical household saves 20 % of their gasoline savings, they will have about $10 per week more to spend on everything else.

A nice addition to the economy, but not high enough to be inflation-creating.

Seniors may not see lower gas prices as a benefit

Of course, that assumes that you live in a typical household. 

Older citizens are likely to wish for higher gas prices as they impact raises in their Social Security monthly benefits.

Seniors, for example, tend to spend less on gasoline as they retire and stop the daily commute. 

Lower gas prices are taking a toll on inflation, and thus on any chance of an increase in the Social Security monthly benefit in January 2016.

If the adjustment to Social Security were to occur today with a current inflation rate of -0.4 % for the CPI-W index, there would be no change to Social Security benefits next year.

This comes at a time when other costs, such as medical, continue to rise. 

Senior citizens, who are more likely to be impacted by medical costs, have seen a 3.9 % in their health care costs in the Atlanta area since last June.

Without an increase in Social Security benefits, they may have to meet those additional costs out of their own pockets, although without a raise in Social Security benefits, Medicare will not increase its monthly fee for Part B for those having their payments deducted through Social Security.

Younger people may see less benefit to decline in cost of gasoline

Some millennials are choosing to live closer to their jobs, so gas prices, both up and down, have less impact on their daily lives. 

With many of them renting rather than buying homes, they are more affected by rents, which have increased 4.9 % since last year.

Beneficiaries of lower fuel prices

The real beneficiaries are those with long commutes, such as families living in their own homes located in the more distant suburbs where the car is a necessity, and there are few commuting options other than driving.

Other beneficiaries are automobile dealers selling large SUVs and trucks, which are seen as more affordable now that gas prices have declined.

After the recession, it appeared that people were choosing to live closer to Atlanta but expect that trend to reverse as lower gas prices encourage the building of homes in more distant suburbs where land and construction costs are lower.

Georgia a non petroleum industry state

The lack of a petroleum industry has held back the state’s growth in the past, but now is a boost that should see dividends paid in its overall job growth compared to states’ economies more dependent on oil and gas production.

North Dakota, which had been recording annual job increases of 4 % or more, is now losing jobs as oil and gas production slows.

Since Georgia lacks the oil and gas reserves found in other states, the decline in those industries will not affect it, while the state's industries that use petroleum benefit.

Lower fuel prices also have an impact on companies, such as Delta and UPS, where fuel costs make up a sizable portion of their total costs of doing business, not to mention trucking companies and railroads. 

Lower costs should lead to higher profits and stock prices to the benefit of investors.

Even farmers will benefit from the lower fuel prices, although that might be partially offset by lower prices in commodities they produce, such as cotton.

Tax increase offset by lower prices

Even Georgia’s gas tax increase, coming at a time of lower prices overall, is masked by the lower prices at the pump. 

Motorists who fuel up will most likely not notice a small rise in prices after these large declines.

For a tax-adverse state like Georgia, that is good news for incumbent politicians.

Overall, Georgia’s economy benefits from these lower prices, but, as always, it depends on how long prices stay lower, and how important fuel costs are to the budgets of individual households and businesses.





Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A B.S. in Manufacturing?


Name an industry that has lost almost 5 million jobs since the turn of the century. Now name an industry that is projected to lose another 500,000 jobs by 2022.

That industry is manufacturing, yet Georgia Southern University has begun accepting students to its new B.S. in Manufacturing Engineering.

When classes begin in August, the university will begin the first undergraduate Manufacturing Engineering Degree Program in the state of Georgia and Southeast United States with the first graduates expected in May 2019.



Maybe its best chance for success is that it is counter-intuitive?

Selecting an undergraduate major is a difficult choice. Among the problems with selecting a career field for undergraduates are:

1.   With so much information on the Internet these days, there is a certain herd mentality with most students crowding into the current “hot” fields.

2.    Students, with the encouragement of their parents, choose what is popular even if they are not suited for that career.

3.    Occupational projections are imprecise at best, even if their predictions are treated as facts rather than as informed guesses.

Even the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is responsible for the biennial Occupational Outlook Handbook, says: The accuracy of projections for individual occupations is subject to error because of the many unknown factors that may affect the economy over the projection period. Furthermore, while occupational employment projections and related job outlook information can provide valuable inputs to the career decision-making process, they should not be the sole basis for a choice of career.

So what advantages do students face in this field?

Manufacturing, especially in the U.S., is translating into a high-tech field, where automation and high value production are the means to increased profitability. That probably means fewer jobs overall, but more opportunities for individuals with technical skills.

Mass customization of items is the trend, and mass customization means quick turnaround times, which requires manufacturers to be located closer to their customers. Manufacturing a high value, low quantity item is inconsistent with slow delivery from remote locations.

The U.S., like few nations on earth, constitutes a major market. Exports are good, but the U.S. is a large enough market that internal demand drives most of its GDP. Fluctuations in currency affects production but not to the extent that it does in smaller markets. To the extent that automated factories can offset lower labor costs elsewhere in the world, the manufacturing sector can be competitive.

The Southeast needs to be a diverse economy, and strong agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries can combine to provide economic stability and growth.

It is unlikely that manufacturing can again become the job creator that it was in our past, or that we currently see in health care, but there is still a place for advanced manufacturing in the U.S.


The students at Georgia Southern University may just find themselves graduating in time to take advantage of these trends.