Showing posts with label georgia department of labor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label georgia department of labor. Show all posts

Friday, January 20, 2023

Georgia new labor commissioner promises changes

The new head of the Georgia Department of Labor vowed Wednesday to overhaul an agency deluged with unemployment claims during the pandemic that resulted in a barrage of complaints over processing delays.

“The Department of Labor has had an image problem,” newly elected Commissioner of Labor Bruce Thompson told members of the state House and Senate Appropriations committees just six days after taking the oath of office. “We seek to be able to change that.”

Thompson is beginning his new job just two weeks after the Georgia Office of Inspector General reported nearly 300 state employees erroneously received unemployment benefits totaling $6.7 million during the last two pandemic years, averaging $23,700 per worker.

The new commissioner said he has just hired a former prosecutor to get to the bottom of allegations of fraud within the agency as well as a legislative liaison to help Georgia lawmakers handle complaints they have been getting from constituents whose unemployment claims have been delayed.

Thompson pledged to eliminate the department’s backlog of about 59,000 pending unemployment claims by August.

Thompson said he also has found many of the agency’s career centers across the state in a state of disrepair, including extensive water damage.

“We’ve seen all kinds of evidence of neglect,” he said. “That stops now.”Thompson also complained of recent reductions that cut the agency’s budget by about 70%. As a result, five career centers have been closed and six more are due to be shut down, he said.

One source of funding the labor department has relied upon has gone away, Thompson said. An administrative fee the agency charges businesses, which collected $10.6 million during the last fiscal year, was allowed to expire last year. Thompson said he will ask the General Assembly to reinstate the fee.

Thompson’s reform plans drew bipartisan support from lawmakers who heard his presentation Wednesday.

“I agree with your sense of urgency … after what we have been through with this department and what our constituents have been through,” said state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation. See

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Georgia Dept. of Labor responds to unemployment audit claims


Georgia Labor Commissioner is responding to a report from the Inspector General alleging hundreds of fully employed state workers collected millions in unemployment.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Georgia headline unemployment rate under 3% as the state continues to post solid growth numbers

Georgia’s June unemployment rate came in at 2.9%, statistically not a significant change from last month’s 3.0% rate, but one that will be noted by most of the media as the lowest unemployment rate in the state going back to the beginning of the series in 1976.

In the state’s news release, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is quoted: "We have never seen an unemployment rate below three percent," said Commissioner Butler. "The unemployment rate is decreasing exactly the way it should in a strong economy. We are adding new job seekers and they are quickly finding employment."

Labor Force

The state’s labor force grew by 8,103 people in June. Contributing to the state’s 2.9% unemployment rate was an increase of 10,420 people employed while 2,317 fewer people were counted as unemployed. The labor force participation rate (62.3) and the employment-population ratio (60.5) remained unchanged over the month. Both rates remained slightly below the levels they reached at the end of 2019.


Georgia added 18,100 nonfarm jobs in June, roughly in line with additions in March, April, and May. Of those new jobs, 15,000 were in the private sector and 3,100 were in government. The showing in government was the best one-month net new job growth since June 2020.

Since June 2021, the state has seen the addition of 246,300 jobs for a growth rate of 5.4%. Of those, 238,000 have been in the private sector.

Job growth among sectors was nicely distributed with health care and social assistance jobs in Georgia growing by 3,700 over the month, professional and business services employment rising by 2,800, the manufacturing sector adding 2,500, leisure and hospitality employment increasing by 2,500, wholesale trade jobs increasing by 2,200, and state government adding 2,000 jobs.

Construction industry employment continues to disappoint. In June, jobs in the sector were down by 400. Although constructions jobs grew by 1,100 in May, they fell by a total of 6,200 between February and April. Over the past 12 months, construction jobs in Georgia have declined by 200 even as other sectors post rapid growth.

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.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Georgia did not reached its pre-pandemic employment levels in July


Georgia released its statewide employment data for July 2021 on August 19. In announcing that the state’s unemployment rate had dropped to 3.7 percent, the Georgia Department of Labor news release headline read: 

Unemployment Rate Drops to Pre-Pandemic Level in July (GDOL News Release)

 While the good news is that the state’s unemployment rate did drop by three-tenths of one percent from June to July, the state has not yet achieved the levels it had gained in March 2020 before pandemic-related cutbacks and closures caused a sharp increase in the state’s unemployment rate and an equally sharp contraction of its employment levels. 

Unemployment rate

In October 2019, the state reported a record low unemployment rate of 3.3 percent, which it maintained through January 2020; but by February, the rate was starting to creep upwards, reaching 3.6 percent in March 2020.   

Layoffs exploded in April 2020, with the state reporting an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. Since then, there has been a continual reduction in the unemployment rates up to the present.

Unemployment rates are typically published to only one decimal point, but it is possible to carry out the calculation to multiple decimal points and carrying out the calculation to four decimal points, one can see that the March 2020 rate was technically 3.5923 percent. 

This compares to the July 2021 rate of 3.7421, or a difference of 0.1498 percentage points, which falls within the limits of what the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics would call statistically insignificant, so the State of Georgia chose to declare it had reached the pre-pandemic level of March 2020 because the state labor agency could technically defend the statement. 

The Georgia Commissioner of Labor, Mark Butler, could have waited until the August numbers are published to confirm that that the state’s unemployment rate had reached pre-pandemic levels, but that would have been taking the risk that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August might not continue to show a decline. 

Labor force, employment, and unemployment

While the number of unemployed in Georgia has steadily declined as the number of people employed has increased, neither measure equals the levels achieved in March 2020. 

From March 2020 to July 2021, the number of unemployed has increased by 6,491, while the number of employed individuals has dropped by 41,424. 

As a result, the state’s labor force, which is by definition a combination of employed and unemployed, has actually declined by 34,933, or nearly 0.7 percent. 

This brings the state’s labor force slightly below the level it reached in October 2019, even though the state’s population has continued to increase. 

The situation is also reflected in other data published by BLS for Georgia. Georgia’s labor force participation rate has declined from 62.9 percent in March 2020 to 61.7 percent in July 2021. Labor force participation rate is defined as representing the number of people in the labor force as a percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population. In other words, the participation rate is the percentage of the population that is either working or actively looking for work. 

Georgia’s employment-population ratio has also dropped from 60.7 percent in March 2020 to 59.4 percent in July 2021. The employment-population ratio represents the number of employed people as a percentage of the civilian noninstitutional population. In other words, it is the percentage of the population that is currently working. 

What happened to these people? Statisticians do not know. Some may have chosen to retire, others may have simply dropped out of the labor force. Whether and when they will re-enter the labor force is also unknown. What is known is that there is a group of former workers who so far have not been re-employed as of July 2021, so implying that the state has fully recovered its pre-pandemic levels seem premature at best. 

Nonfarm employment


The State of Georgia and BLS also publish a separate monthly survey of nonfarm jobs, and this also confirms that the state has not yet reached its pre-pandemic levels. 

In July 2021, nonfarm jobs in Georgia totaled 4,572,100. While this was a good increase from June (up by 43,600), it still leaves the state 64,900, or 1.4 percent, short of the number obtained in March 2020 and more than 94,000 jobs short of the highest level achieved in February 2020. 

Much of this shortfall can be attributed to the disappearance of jobs in the Atlanta metro area, where July’s jobs total of 2,797,200 is still 67,100 jobs below the level it achieved in March 2020, and 89,500 short of its peak in January 2020. 

Whether the state, and the nation, can continue to grow its employment base remains to be seen, as Covid-related variants raise questions about the ongoing strength of the economy through the end of 2022, but in any case, there is still more work to be done to re-establish all the employment that has been lost from the pre-pandemic time.


Note: All data discussed are seasonally adjusted. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical procedure that removes the effects of normal seasonal variations—resulting from events such as holidays, school openings and closings, and weather—from data series. Seasonally adjusted data make it easier to observe cyclical and other economic trends, such as those associated with general economic expansions and contractions. For further information, see Seasonal adjustment of Current Population Survey (CPS) estimates.

Charts are from the website.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Georgia’s reported Unemployment Rate decline is misleading

Georgia Labor Force, not seasonally adjusted, January 2019 to August 2020

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Georgia reported its August employment figures and highlighted a decline in its unemployment rate from 7.6% in July to 5.6%, after seasonal adjustment. The state headlined the claim that Georgia had achieved the seventh lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

Analyzing the data, a truer picture appears that is less positive than the overly optimistic story put out by the Georgia Department of Labor.

Unemployment rates in Georgia declined in August 2020, not because people found work, but because large numbers of people gave up searching for a job.

Even a cursory analysis would show that after seasonally adjusting the data, Georgia saw employment rise by 21,000 over the month, too few to account for the large decline in its unemployment rate.

Counting workers before seasonal adjustment, the actual number of people with jobs actually declined over the month by more than 12,000, while the number of people working in August 2020 fell by more than 303,000 below the number recorded 12 months ago.

Labor Force Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the labor force to include all people age 16 and older who are either working or actively seeking work.

Statewide, Georgia’s labor force dropped by more than 128,000 over the month, according to information provided by the Georgia Department of Labor, Workforce Statistics & Economic Research. This decline in the labor force accounted for most of the drop in the unemployment rate.

Georgia’s lower unemployment rate compared to other states can be explained by the higher percentage of people in Georgia who gave up their job search.

Georgia recorded a 2.5% decline in its labor force in August. Nationwide, the number of people leaving the labor force declined by 0.25%.

Compared to August 2019, the state’s labor force declined by more than 203.000, which translates to a 4% drop. The nation’s labor force fell by 1.8% over the past 12 months.

Georgia’s population continues to increase so it is unlikely that those leaving the labor force also left the state. More likely, people became discouraged about their job prospects and decided to stop looking for work.

Georgia’s Metro Areas

All metro areas in the state reported decreases in their labor force compared to July and a year ago.

The Atlanta metro area is the largest job market in the state and recorded the largest decline in its labor force, dropping by more than 87,000 over the month and declining by more than 114,000 since last August.

The Dalton area, with its heavier reliance on manufacturing, recorded the largest percentage drop in August, down 3% over the month.

Brunswick MSA reported the largest over-the-year percentage labor force decline with a drop of more than 13%.

Georgia’s Regional Commissions

The state has set up 12 regional commissions to assist local governments in areas such as workforce devlopment. 

Among the commissions, the Atlanta Regional Commission, which includes the city of Atlanta and surrounding counties, recorded the largest labor force drop with a decline of more than 71,000 from July to August and a drop of more than 81,000 from August a year ago.

The area covered by the ARC accounted for 55% of the decline in the state’s labor force, even though it is home to 47% of the workers included in Georgia’s labor force numbers.

Over the month, the Three Rivers Regional Commission, which includes counties in West Central Georgia, recorded the largest percentage drop, down more than 3%.

Compared to last year, the Central Savannah River Area Regional Commission reported the largest decline, down more than 5.5%. The CSRA covers 13 counties in the eastern part of Central Georgia.

Dangers in using data in a misleading manner

Information, such as unemployment rates, are important economic indicators that help guide local, state, and national policymakers in their decisions affecting the economy.

When the numbers are misread or intentionally misreported, it can skew economic decisions regarding taxes, social programs, and economic development plans.

Decision makers and the public need a clear understanding of the current economic situation and providing misleading interpretations of the information available can result in poor economic decisions that damage the state’s future.

Georgia Labor Force estimates are available here.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

How bad is Georgia hurting? State receives first $85 million installment of $1.1 billion loan request for unemployment trust fund


In June, the Tax Foundation published a study of state unemployment insurance trust funds. 
Georgia ranked at #21 out of 50. Since then, the picture has continued to deteriorate.
Map Source: Tax Foundation

Before March, Georgia looked to have one of the more solvent unemployment insurance trust funds. 

That is no longer true, as Georgia is receiving an $85 million loan to replenish its unemployment trust fund, which is quickly running out of cash as the state’s insured unemployment rate remains elevated.

The funds are the first installment of a $1.1 billion request made to the U.S. Department of Treasury by Governor Kemp, as reported by The Center Square

Figures from the most recent Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims report published by the U.S. Department of Labor shows that 633,988 people in Georgia were receiving unemployment insurance benefits as of July 25, 2020, in contrast to the 25,618 people who received them a year ago. 

As of the end of July, the state’s insured unemployment rate stood at 14.4%. 

The Georgia Department of Labor announced that as of July 28, 2020, the trust fund balance was $585,483,621, down $1.962 billion, or 77 percent, from the March 24 balance of $2,547,476,454.  

Last month, Governor Kemp as the U.S. Department of Treasury to loan Georgia $85 million in August, $585 million in September, and $430 million in October. The current loan is the first installment related to that request. 

States that receive loans are expected to repay that money to the U.S. Treasury by either increasing state’s payroll tax on employers or from general funds. 

Interest is usually paid from the state’s general fund, and payroll taxes will most likely increase, potentially hurting workers and employers, Greg Georgia, director of the Center for Economic Analysis at Middle Georgia State University, told The Center Square. 

"When the state has to borrow money to supplement that fund now, that's probably general fund spending," George said. "So, it's just a way of spreading the pain to the broader taxpayer base." 

In June, the Tax Foundation conducted an analysis of the solvency of states’ unemployment insurance trust funds and noted that Georgia ranked 21st in its solvency level at 1.25. Any state with a solvency level of 1.0 or greater was deemed to have unemployment insurance sufficient to weather a recession. 

California ranked worse at number 50 with a solvency level of 0.21, while Vermont controlled the most solvent of the state trust funds with a solvency rank of 2.53. 

Despite the high number of claims being paid weekly by the Georgia Department of Labor, there are still accusations that the department has failed to pay all claims dating back to the middle of March. 

The state says it has paid benefits on 92% of valid claims since March. 

“As additional claims are being filed, we have been able to maintain an impressive ratio of eligible claims filed to payouts,” said Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “Record breaking payout rates represent a new standard for this department as we strive to better serve Georgians.”

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Georgia pays out record unemployment claims even as number of initial claims declines

The Georgia Department of Labor paid out a record amount of unemployment insurance benefits in the shortened July 4th week. The payments in the holiday-shortened week were almost 3x the amount issued for all of 2019.

Georgia Unemployment Rate, Seasonally Adjusted

Regular state and federal unemployment insurance benefit payments totaled over $857 million. Since mid-March, total unemployment benefits payments in Georgia have exceeded $8.5 billion.

In the first week of July, $148,071,716 in regular weekly state unemployment benefits were paid. Since March 21, over $2 billion has been paid in regular state unemployment insurance benefits.

The news comes even as Georgia reports a drop in initial claims for unemployment with 13,985 fewer initial claims in the week ending July 4th than in the previous week. For the week, initial claims totaled 103,590.

For the week ending June 20, the state counted a total of 661,233 people on its insured unemployment rolls compared to 24,973 for the same week in June 2019.

Georgia Unemployment Insurance Fund

Although the federal goverment is covering much of the cost of unemployment benefits currently through the month of July, regular state unemployment benefits continue to be paid by the state and are funded through a tax on employers. 

Normally, the rate an employer pays into the fund is based on their experience rating -- the number of workers drawing unemployment from a given employer.

As the state draws down the money in its unemployment insurance fund, it needs to determine if rates need to increase so the fund does not run out of money. Georgia has already decided that Covid-19-related claims will not be counted when calculating experience ratings.

Some states have already asked the federal government for assistance because their drawdowns of their unemployment insurance funds are already running low.

In Georgia’s case, despite the recent spike in claims, the state’s unemployment insurance fund remains solvent. Georgia is estimated to have sufficient funds to be able to pay between 1.0 to 1.5 years of benefits associated with an average recessionary period.

Solvency of State Unemployment Insurnace Funds Ability to Pay Over 12 Months 
Based on An Average Recession, as of January 2020

Looking ahead to 2021

Although Georgia’s unemployment fund is currently in good shape, it will need to be replenished. 

After the last recession, Georgia reduced the number of weeks for unemployment benefits from 26 to 14 weeks to reduce the need to increase taxes on employers.

Assuming that the state’s economy will not quickly recover from the current economic downturn, in 2021, the state will have to consider another reduction in benefits coverage, higher taxes on employers, lower weekly payout rates, or a combination of these options.

In addition to needing to rebuild the fund, there will be pressure to modernize the system, as workers complained that the current system left them without benefits for multiple weeks due to breakdowns in the processing system. The state will need to determine whether its computer infrastructure needs t be modernized or replaced and if so, how to pay for the changes.

Not only is the current downturn stressing employers and employees, it is also putting pressure on state politicians next year to find ways to rebuild the state’s unemployment insurance system so it can better serve employers and workers in the future.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Georgia 2019 job growth would have been a disaster without Atlanta

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released detailed numbers on job growth in Georgia over the past calendar year, not only for statewide Georgia, but for all the metro areas in the state.

By subtracting out the Atlanta area’s job information from the statewide information, it is possible measure how job growth in the non-Atlanta portion of the state, which I have termed RGA (Rest of Georgia), compares to the Atlanta area in calendar year 2019, and the results are not pretty.

In 2019, Georgia added 69,400 jobs for a growth rate of 1.5%, before seasonal adjustments. The calendar year growth rate was the lowest for the state since 2011, when the state posted a 1.1% rate.

The Atlanta metro area, which consist of 29 of the state’s 159 counties, recorded job growth of 66,700 over the calendar year for a growth rate of 2.4%. In contrast to the state, this year’s growth rate exceeded the rates recorded for the Atlanta area in 2017 and 2018.

By subtracting Atlanta’s numbers from the statewide totals, job growth in RGA (Rest of Georgia) was a mere 2,700 or 0.2% for calendar year 2019.

As a comparison, for the nation, job growth was 1.4% in calendar 2019.

The lack of job growth at a time when the nation is doing well economically is particularly worrisome because it represents a trend whereas the Atlanta metro area is increasingly the state’s primary job growth engine.

In 2019, RGA accounted for 38% of the total nonfarm jobs residing in Georgia. Ten years ago, RGA was home to 41% of the state’s nonfarm jobs. Since 2009, the Atlanta area has increased its job count by 623,300, as the RGA added 190,300.

Jobs by Industry

Looking at the jobs data by industry for 2019, jobs in the professional and business services sector grew by 13,000 in the Atlanta metro area while falling by 16,200 in RGA. The Atlanta area added 3,700 jobs in the information sector, while RGA lost 3,200.

Only in the financial activities sector did the number of jobs added in RGA exceed the number added in the Atlanta area. In that one industry RGA added 600 jobs, while the Atlanta area added 400.

Another way of looking at jobs is to compare the industry concentration by employment for the state, the Atlanta metro area, and the Rest of Georgia.

For example, about 15% of statewide employment is in government, which is the same as nationwide. Even though Atlanta is the state capital, only 12% of jobs in the metro area are in government, while in the rest of the state, this increases to 20% of total nonfarm jobs.

More specifically, about 4% of jobs statewide are in state government, with state government jobs in Atlanta accounting for 3% of total employment. For RGA, the percentage doubles with state government jobs accounting for 6% of total employment outside the Atlanta metro area.

Clearly, employment in government, federal, state, and local government combined, is of much more importance to the RGA than it is to the Atlanta metro area. Job losses in this sector would be more deeply felt in RGA than in the Atlanta metro area.

One sector where RGA has a significantly larger proportion of jobs compared to the Atlanta area is in manufacturing.

In the Atlanta metro area, manufacturing represents 6% of all employment, while in RGA, it accounts for 13% of employment.

Over the past 10 years, the state has added 63,100 jobs in manufacturing with the additions about evenly split between the Atlanta area and RGA.

Urban areas outside Atlanta

While the Atlanta metro area is the state’s largest urban area, Georgia is home to 13 other metropolitan areas ranging in size from Augusta with 246,000 jobs to Hinesville with 21,000.

Two of the 13 areas posted job growth rates above 2% in 2019. Gainesville added 3,400 jobs resulting in a 3.6% growth rate, and Rome added 1,100 jobs for a 2.6% job growth rate.

Although Gainesville is classified as its own metropolitan statistical area, the area sits adjacent to the Atlanta metro area and is classified by the Census Bureau as a part of the Atlanta-Athens-Clarke-Sandy Springs Combined Statistical Area (CSA). Some portion of Gainesville area residents commute to the Atlanta area daily for work.

Columbus was the only area in the state to lose jobs in 2019, with a net loss of 1,500 jobs or -1.2%. Albany recorded zero job growth over the year.

Excluding the Atlanta area, the other 13 metro areas reported a net addition of 13,100 jobs in 2019 for a growth rate of 1.1%. Unfortunately, since some of the state’s metro areas include counties outside Georgia, it is difficult to determine how changes in employment in those non-Georgia counties affected the overall employment of those metro areas that overlap two states, such as Augusta and Columbus.


Focusing only on statewide job growth can lead to misleading conclusions about the economic health of the state.

While the state as a whole is seeing job growth above the national average, the longer-term trend has been for that growth to concentrate in the Atlanta metro area.

Meanwhile, the rest of the state is seeing jobs concentrate in manufacturing and government, neither of which have been particularly strong growth engines.

Georgia is one of the largest states geographically east of the Mississippi River, so commuting to jobs in the Atlanta metro area by individuals living in other parts of the state is not a viable option for most of the state.

More likely, young people are being drawn out of other parts of the state into the Atlanta area in search of better employment opportunities as rural areas hollow out.

This trend has been evident for some time, so reversing it, even if desirable, will be difficult. Once a growth pattern like this develops, it feeds on itself, as more jobs create more opportunities, drawing more people from low growth areas to Atlanta in a self-reinforcing process.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Georgia’s unemployment rate is good but it has been better in the past

Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped down to 4.1% in June (seasonally adjusted), a decrease of 0.1 percentage point over the month and a drop of 0.6 percentage points since June 2017.

Nonfarm employment in the state rose by 14,200 in June and has increased by 77,300 jobs since June 2017.

In the press release announcing the June 2018 preliminary data, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is quoted:

“Georgia’s labor force and job market are as big as they have ever been, and they continue to grow.”  

The statement implies but left unsaid that the state’s current job market is the best it has ever been, which is misleading.

While the unemployment rate is technically true and even though these are good numbers, it should be noted that the current unemployment rate is not unprecedented.

Georgia’s labor force has grown as its population increased over the past two decades, so a larger labor force in a good economy is to be expected but the June 2018 unemployment rate of 4.1% is higher than the numbers reported by the state prior and during part of the 2001 recession.

Georgia consistently posted unemployment rates below 4% between May 1999 and July 2001, according to data obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here is a comparison of the June 2001 and June 2018 (Data are seasonally adjusted.).

June 2001
June 2018
National unemployment rate

Georgia unemployment rate
Georgia unemployed
Georgia employed
Georgia labor force
Georgia nonfarm Employment

The state’s labor force has expanded by over 900,000 people, so that even with the current low unemployment rate, more people are unemployed now than 17 years ago.

For the state’s unemployment rate to match the June 2001 figure, an additional 16,700 people would have to be employed in June 2018 meaning that June’s increase in nonfarm employment grew at only half the pace needed to match the June 2001 figures.

Also, in the press release announcing the June 2018 preliminary data, it stated that

“Construction in particular is continuing to have a very strong year, seeing growth of 8.8 percent over the year. This is the largest year-over-year percent gain since August 1999.”

Again, technically the Georgia Department of Labor is correct, but that still puts construction employment below the level it achieved back in June 2001.

In June 2001, construction employment in Georgia stood at 208,600, 9.000 more jobs than in June 2018.

The bad news is that by June 2001, unemployment rates were already rising in Georgia, and the state has yet to see a return to the levels reached at the beginning of the century.

The good news is that Georgia’s employment situation may have further gains before the next recession begins.

Several more good months of a strong national economy, and Georgia may once again see a steady stream of monthly unemployment rates in the 3 percent range.

When Georgia’s unemployment rate falls below the levels recorded back in 1999-2000, and when real wages in the state appreciably rise, then the state agency can brag that “Georgia labor market sets records”.

Here is the full news release issued by the Georgia Department of Labor.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Thursday that Georgia once again set records for employed residents, labor force and jobs for June, continuing a trend from recent months.  
The state is approaching the 5-million mark for employed residents. At the same time, Georgia posted more than 4.5 million jobs and a labor force of almost 5.2 million.
Meanwhile, the jobless rate dropped to a level not seen since 2001 even as the national rate ticked up .2 percent.
“While the nation’s jobs and unemployment numbers are beginning to level off, Georgia continues to improve across just about every metric,” said Butler. “Georgia remains one of the premier states in which to live and work.”

In June, Georgia hit a record high 4.94 million employed residents. That number was up by 15,345 over the month and by more than 123,452 since last June.
Likewise, Georgia’s labor force continued to climb, increasing by 10,401 in June to a record high of about 5.1 million. It has grown by 97,510 over the last 12 months.
Georgia’s June unemployment rate came in at 4.1 percent, down .1 percent over the last month. The state rate was 4.7 percent a year ago. The national unemployment rate is slightly better at 4 percent, though the gap has narrowed over the last year.
Jobs were also up by 14,200 in June to over 4.5 million, an all-time high. Over the past 12 months, Georgia added 77,300 jobs.
Butler said all of these numbers continue trends going back many months.
“Georgia’s labor force and job market are as big as they have ever been, and they continue to grow,” said Butler. 
Most of those job gains came in the professional business services; other services; and the trade, transportation, and utilities industry.
Over the past year, Georgia has added more than 10,000 jobs in each of the following sectors: trade, transportation and utilities; education and health services; construction; and leisure and hospitality. Construction in particular is continuing to have a very strong year, seeing growth of 8.8 percent over the year. This is the largest year-over-year percent gain since August 1999.
“When you see that big of a jump in construction jobs over the year, that points to a strong economy,” said Butler.
The number of unemployment claims filed in June was down about 2 percent and remain down by nearly 15 percent over the last year.  
There were 57,752 jobs posted on during June. Of those jobs, 36 percent were for STEM occupations. 




Friday, August 18, 2017

Georgia surprises with job losses in July

In his monthly YouTube report, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler puts a positive spin on this month's job losses.

Georgia lost 14,100 jobs in the month of July, the largest one-month job loss for the state since the beginning of 2011. With that lost, Georgia’s 12-month job gain of 96,200 jobs after seasonal adjustment, marked the first time since 2014 that the state has posted annual growth of less than 100,000 jobs in a year.

Despite the jobs drop, the state’s unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 4.7%, which the Bureau of Labor statistics calculated as statistically not significantly different than the nation’s rate at 4.3%. Because Georgia has a smaller labor force than the nation and the unemployment rate is based on a smaller sample, apparent differences in rates can be deceiving once the numbers are adjusted by sampling techniques.

Private Sector Job Loss is Key

Over the month, the private sector in Georgia recorded losses of 11,900 jobs before seasonal adjustment. To compare, you have to go back to 2009 to see a July where the state lost this numbers of private sector jobs.

In July, local government educational services showed a drop of 19,700 jobs, about average for this month of the year.

Normally, in July, growth in private sector jobs in Georgia offset seasonal losses in local government education jobs, as school-related workers, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers, are unemployed while the schools are on summer recess with the expectation that these jobs will begin again once schools open in August.

This year, the private sector was unable to make up the difference.

Losses were widespread with construction (-1,900), manufacturing (-1,600), retail trade (-1,300), and professional and business services (-3,600) all contributing to the downturn.

Georgia’s job loss runs counter to the nation

Georgia’s losses are more surprising since the nation reported good job growth in July, up by 209,000, after seasonal adjustment.

Among the states, the largest increase in employment over the month occurred in California (+82,600), followed by Florida (+32,700) and Pennsylvania (+29,000).

In percentage terms, the largest increases occurred in the District of Columbia, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island (+0.6 percent each).

Georgia had the only significant employment decrease (-14,100, or -0.3 percent).

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia had over-the-year increases in nonfarm payroll employment in July. The largest job gains occurred in Texas (+293,400), California (+276,400), and Florida (+226,200).

It is always interesting to see the monthly revisions to these preliminary numbers, but next month economists will be looking closely to see if this month's drastic drop was simply a statistical slip, or the real start of a downturn.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Metro Atlanta’s job growth drives Georgia’s growth

After two months of small declines, Georgia’s employers rebounded sharply in June, adding 27,400 jobs over the month according to newly released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was the largest one-month jump in hiring in over six years.

The new jobs added in June pushed the total number of jobs added over the past year to 122,600, well above the 111,200 jobs added for the same period in 2016.

The state’s unemployment rate relatively unchanged at 4.8% in June compared to May. In June 2016, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 5.3%.

Over the past year, Georgia’s labor force grew by 134,941 persons as the number of people employed in Georgia rose by 153,335 while the number counted as unemployed dropped by 18,394.

Metro Atlanta

The metro Atlanta area added 23,900 in June and accounted for 87% of the state’s new jobs. Over the past year, metro area employers have added 93,700 jobs.  

Increasingly, the metro Atlanta area drives the state’s job market.

At the beginning of 2007, metro Atlanta accounted for 58.9% of the state’s employment. With the new counts for June, that percentage has risen to 61.3%.

Signs of Wage Inflation

With Georgia’s job growth coming in at 2.8% over the year compared to the nation’s 1.6% growth rate, pressures are rising on employers to raise compensation to retain and attract workers.

Earlier in the week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report detailing weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers for the second quarter of 2017.

The median weekly earnings of the nation's 113.4 million full-time wage and salary workers
were $859 in the second quarter of 2017 (not seasonally adjusted).

This was 4.2 percent higher than a year earlier, compared with a gain of 1.9 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) over the same period.

While BLS does not release similar data for individual states, Georgia (and especially the Atlanta metro area) is not immune to the wage pressures being seen elsewhere in the nation.

All data in this report are seasonally adjusted unless noted otherwise.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

98% of Georgia's New Jobs are in Metro Atlanta

Georgia saw good job growth in the first three months of 2017, but virtually all of it occurred in the Atlanta metro area, according to new seasonally adjusted data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Georgia Nonfarm Employment, Jan. 2006 - March 2017
Atlanta Metro Area Nonfarm Employment, Jan. 2006 - March 2017
The state saw net new jobs rise by 30,400 in the first three months of 2017. For the 12 months ending in March, the state saw a net increase of 131,000 new jobs, resulting in a 3.0% increase over the year.

Virtually all the new jobs grew in the Atlanta metro area, which posted an increase of 29,800 new jobs for the first three months of 2017.

As a result, the Atlanta metro area accounted for 98% of net job growth. The Atlanta metro area now accounts for almost 85% of the nonfarm jobs in the state.

Overall, March was the 12th consecutive month that saw Georgia posting an increase in seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs.

Unemployment Rate

Georgia's unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted, declined to 5.1% in March 2017, the lowest recorded by the state since December 2007.

In March 2016, the state's unemployment rate stood at 5.5%. 

Despite a long string of good job growth, the state's unemployment rate stays stubbornly above the national average.

In March 2017, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.5%.

Growth Industries in Georgia

Georgia's private sector recorded most of the growth in the first quarter, rising by 29,800 jobs, while government increased by 600 net new jobs.

The state’s Construction industry added 6,400 new jobs in the first quarter, followed by Financial Activities (6,200) and Leisure & Hospitality (5,000).

Manufacturing in the state saw a dip with job losses of 2,900 in the first quarter.

In government, the slow growth was due to a loss of 1,200 local government jobs, while state government jobs grew by 1,100.

Lagging Areas

Metro areas with net declines during the first quarter of 2017 included Augusta (-1,500), Brunswick (-600), Albany (-400), Columbus (-300) and Dalton and Hinesville (-200 in each), seasonally adjusted.

Over the past 12 months, the Dalton area has shown the smallest job growth, adding only 100 net new jobs since March 2016.

The story for the rural areas outside the state’s 11 metro areas is even worse.

While BLS does not report a separate number for non-metro nonfarm employment, by calculating the net increases for all metro areas in the state, the result is no net increase in jobs in the rural parts of Georgia since March 2016.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Does McDonald’s need Georgia Department of Labor to recruit minimum wage fast-food workers?

The Georgia Department of Labor recently posted the following information:

The Georgia Department of Labor’s (GDOL) Cedartown Career Center will help McDonald’s recruit about 50 employees to work in Carroll, Douglas and Polk counties. The recruitment will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 1-5 p.m. at the McDonald’s restaurant located at 328 North Main St. in Cedartown. GDOL staff will be on site to assist applicants. Salaries will begin at $7.25 an hour.

If you check the Georgia Department of Labor’s website, they claim:

The Mission of the Georgia Department of Labor is: 
To work with public and private partners in building a workforce system that contributes to Georgia's economic prosperity.
Now there is nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s or any fast-food restaurant, but when people think about bringing jobs to Georgia and building an educated workforce, they probably don’t think that hiring workers at the Federal minimum wage contributes to that goal in a significant manner.

Is this really where GDOL should be putting its energy?

Doesn’t the Department think that McDonald’s, an international employer, can hire its own employees at minimum wage without the help of the Georgia Department of Labor?

GDOL needs to focus on helping to develop a workforce that can compete nationally and internationally.

The goal should be to focus on well-paying jobs with good benefits and career advancement. That means technical training and encouraging workers to pursue their dreams both by supporting them and providing them with the tools they need to succeed.

While job growth continues strong in the metro Atlanta area, it is showing signs of weakening in many parts of Georgia.

GDOL needs to be working to help find solutions to the lack of job opportunities in the rural portions of the state, and workers in those areas need to know that the GDOL cares about them.

It is unclear how GDOL staff spending time and energy helping McDonald’s hire 50 minimum-wage staff for fast-food restaurants (that may be company or franchisee-owned) is in the long-term interests of Georgia's workforce.

You can read the GDOL announcement here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Georgia unemployment insurance appeals unit named best in nation among large states

The United States Department of Labor (USDOL) has named the Georgia Department of Labor’s (GDOL) Unemployment Insurance (UI) Appeals Tribunal the best performer among the nation’s 22 largest states for handling UI appeals.
“The Atlanta Regional Office of the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration congratulates the Georgia Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance staff on their recent award,” said USDOL Regional Administrator Les Range. “As the recipient among large states of the Department’s 2016 Excellence Award for UI Appeals Decisions, they have demonstrated excellence in performing timely and quality appeal decisions and hearings. We appreciate their hard work in serving Georgia’s citizens.”
The award is based on the state’s performance for the period from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. The GDOL previously won the award for large states in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013. 
“This recognition again confirms that our staff is doing a fine job administering our unemployment insurance program,” said State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “It’s imperative that correct and fair decisions are reached when unemployment benefits are awarded or denied. This ensures that eligible claimants get the benefits they deserve, as quickly as possible, while preventing undeserved payments that can increase the tax rates of employers who support the system.”
The USDOL’s award is presented to the top performers from small, mid-sized and large states. A state’s size is based on the number of workers covered under the state’s unemployment insurance program. There are more than 4 million covered workers in Georgia. The 21 other states that comprise the large state category are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
For more information about Georgia Department of Labor services to employers and jobseekers, visit