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

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Georgia April 2023 Unemployment: Nothing to See Here

 Georgia Unemployment Rate, January 2022 to April 2023, seasonally adjusted

With new data produced each month, sometimes there seems like a necessity to say “something” about the new numbers, but sometimes, the numbers are so little changed over the month that there is very little new that needs to be said. Such is the case with the April 2023 employment data for Georgia.


The state’s unemployment rate remained at 3.1% for the ninth consecutive month, as the number of employed rose by 14,088 over the month, while the number of unemployed workers increased by 469. Both the change in the number of employed and unemployed were within the bounds of possible sample error, so statistically, there was nothing statistically significant about either number.

The same can be said of the labor force participation rate and employment-population ratio where any variation over the month was statistically insignificant.

Payroll Employment

Georgia’s April 2023 payroll employment numbers showed a slight increase, up by 10,400 over the month, but not a statistically significant difference from March.

Private sector employment increases were responsible for most of the change with private sector employment rising by 9,400 and government employment increasing by 1,000.

As would be expected with the overall numbers changed so little, most of the changes at the industry level were relatively small and statistically not significant.

The largest increases over the month were in health care and social assistance (2,700), retail trade (2,100), and leisure and hospitality (1,900).

The largest decline occurred in information industry employment (-1,100).

None of these changes rose to the level of statistical significance so all of the industry-level payroll employment changes could have been caused by nonsampling and sampling errors rather than signifying anything about the state’s actual labor force.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Georgia’s January unemployment rate remains unchanged even as nonfarm payroll employment rises

Georgia’s unemployment rate remained at 3.1% in January 2023 with the state’s rate was not statistically different than the national unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nonfarm payroll employment in the state rose by 16,600, the largest one-month increase since September.

Georgia unemployment rate, January 2022 - 2023, seasonally adjusted

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


The number of unemployed workers in Georgia was virtually unchanged over the month. Employed workers rose by 5,331. As a result, the state’s labor force grew by 5,620, the fourth consecutive month that labor force has increased after recording four months of declines from June through September. All numbers are seasonally adjusted.

The state’s unemployment rate has remained at 3.1% for six months. It had dropped as low as 2.9% in April and May of last year before shifting to 3.0% in June and July.

Over the past 12 months, the state has seen its labor force grow by 42,108 as the number of employed rose by 44,445 while the number of unemployed declined by 2,337.

Nonfarm payroll employment

Georgia’s increase in nonfarm payroll employment in January was virtually all confined to the private sector, which saw an increase of 16,000 (0.3%) over the month compared to a 600 job increase in government (federal, state, and local government combined).

The leisure and hospitality sector added 6,100 jobs in January, followed by health care and social assistance that increased by  3,800, and professional and business services that added 3,600 jobs.

These increases were partially offset by a loss of 1,100 jobs in wholesale trade and a decline of 1,000 in retail trade.

All numbers have been adjusted for seasonal variations.

Over the past 12 months, Georgia’s nonfarm payroll employment has risen by 159,600 (3.4%).

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Georgia state economist predicts slowdown in state government revenue

The state’s chief economist injected a note of caution Tuesday as the General Assembly began reviewing Gov. Brian Kemp’s $32.5 billion fiscal 2024 budget request. 

More than half of the state’s record $6.6 billion surplus was built on a huge increase in capital gains tax payments not likely to be repeated, Jeffrey Dorfman told members of the Georgia House and Senate Appropriations committees at the start of three days of hearings on Kemp’s spending recommendations.

Typically volatile corporate income tax payments also are uncertain, with only 2% of Georgia businesses accounting for 96% of the record $2.5 billion the state collected in corporate income taxes last year, Dorfman said. 

“If they don’t make as much money, that spigot shuts off very quickly,” he said. 

The expected loss of capital gains taxes due to last year’s drop in the stock market and likely decrease of corporate income taxes are largely responsible for Dorfman setting a revenue estimate for the current fiscal year that is significantly below what the state brought in last year. 

Still, Georgia’s economy remains strong just more than halfway through fiscal 2023, which ends June 30, Dorfman told the lawmakers. 

Individual Georgians are paying more in income taxes due to a combination of pay raises and inflation driving up prices, Dorfman said. 

Inflation also is responsible for boosting the state’s revenue outlook by increasing sales tax payments, he said. 

Georgians are still saving 2% to 4% of their incomes, even though post-pandemic spending is on the rise, Dorfman said. 

“So far, the consumer is not running out of money,” he said. “The consumer is still handling their debt quite well.” 

Dorfman said Georgia’s workforce has risen by 167,000 jobs despite the impacts the pandemic had on the economy. 

“The [job] sectors that have grown the most pay more [in taxes],” he said. “The Georgia employment picture still looks strong.” 

While Dorfman is projecting capital gains taxes to all but disappear and corporate sales tax payments to shrink this year and next, he said he expects a 3.5% increase in personal income taxes during the current fiscal year and a slight rise in sales taxes. 

Despite the anticipated hit on revenue from declining corporate taxes, the huge surplus means the state can afford the additional tax relief Gov. Brian Kemp promised on the campaign trail last year and again in his inaugural address last week. 

Kemp repeated that pledge Tuesday in brief remarks at the beginning of Tuesday’s hearing on a remote feed from Davos, Switzerland, where he is appearing at the annual World Economic Forum. Kemp is calling for an additional $1 billion state income tax rebate on top of the rebate the General Assembly approved last year, as well as $1.1 billion in property tax relief. 

“Building a bigger and better Georgia doesn’t come from building up our government,” he said. “It comes from building up our citizens.” 

Kemp said he is taking advantage of his trip to Europe to invite overseas “job creators” to visit Georgia. He said he’s looking to build on record-breaking corporate investment in the Peach State during the last two years. 

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


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Unemployment data went the wrong way in Georgia during August

 In what may be a harbinger of slower economic times, 6 of Georgia’s 13 metropolitan areas showed increases of 0.3-0.4% in their unemployment rates in August compared to the previous month. Only the Dalton area showed no change over the month.

In some circumstances, increases in the rate of unemployment would not be a concern and might even be seen in a more positive light.

For example, small changes in unemployment rates (0.0-0.1%) could be simple variation in small statistical samples. Such changes should be ignored month-to-month and be focused on over-the-year changes.

Even larger changes in unemployment rates could be seen in a positive light if the rise was because people who were previously outside the labor market chose to rejoin. Those “labor market re-joiners” would increase the areas’ labor forces while falling into the ranks of the unemployed as they search for a position.

Unfortunately, in 10 of the 13 areas, and most significantly including the state’s largest labor market of Atlanta, the labor force declined in August.

In the Atlanta metro area, the labor force declined by 14,859 as the number of employed dropped by 20,468 and the number of unemployed increased by 5,609 resulting in the unemployment rate increasing by 0.2% to 3.0%.

If there is any good news from the latest reports compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is that unemployment rates remain well below their levels in August 2021.

In August 2021, the Atlanta unemployment rate stood at 3.9%. Whereas, in August 2021, Albany posted the highest unemployment rate among the state’s metro areas at 5.2%, in August 2022, Albany’s rate had dropped to 4.2%, although still the highest among the metro areas.

The Gainesville, Ga., area posted the lowest rate in both August 2021 and 2022, dropping from 2.7% last year to 2.5% presently.

 Even as the state's nonfarm job numbers rose by 15,800 in August, after seasonal adjustment, the rise in unemployment coupled with declines in the labor force show that even Georgia is not immune to a slowdown in the national economy related to rising interest rates.

List of Georgia metro area unemployment rates, August 2022

Albany, 4.2%

Athens, 2.9%

Augusta, 3.5%

Brunswick, 3.1%

Columbus, 3.9%

Dalton, 3.6%

Gainesville, 2.5%

Hinesville, 3.3%

Macon, 3.5%

Rome, 3.1%

Savannah, 2.9%

Valdosta, 3.2%

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Job openings down in May for Georgia, as inflation rises in the Atlanta area in June

Two new reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a increasingly tough atmosphere for workers in Georgia. A decline in the number of job openings means fewer opportunities for workers to improve their economic position, while rising prices will squeeze their incomes.

Job openings in Georgia

Job openings in Georgia dropped by 69,000 between April and May 2022 to 367,000. In comparison, the state recorded 436,000 in April and 365,000 openings in May 2021.

The job openings rate in the state dropped from 7.4 in May 2021 to 7.1 in May 2022. The job openings rate peaked at 8.4 in August and October 2021 and again in February and April 2022.

If the number of workers choosing to quit offers an insight to workers' psychology, the number of job openings offers a similar insight to employers. A reduction in the number of openings indicates that employers in Georgia are less optimistic about their future business prospects.

While the number of job openings declined, the number of hires, quits and layoffs were virtually unchanged over the month.


Consumer prices in the Atlanta area rose by 2.4% between April and June and increased 11.5% in the 12 months ending in June.

For the nation, consumer prices increased 2.5% for the two months ending in June and rose 9.1% over the past 12 months.

The 12-month increase was the largest recorded for the Atlanta metro area since BLS began posting bimonthly data in 1999. As a contrast, in January 2021 the Atlanta area recorded a 12-month increase of 2.4% compared to the current two-month increase with the same percentage change.

In June, food prices in the Atlanta area rose by 2.1%, over two months as costs for food at home increased 3.0% and food away from home moved up by 1.0%. Over the past 12 months, food prices increased 10.1%.

Housing costs increased 2.5% over the previous two months with rents increasing 2.7%. Over the past year, housing costs in the Atlanta area have risen 11.0% with rents increasing 12.2%.

After increasing in January, apparel costs have declined in each of the past four months with the apparel index posting a 6.9% decline in the two months ending in June. With those recent declines, the index has increased 4.8% over the past year.

Transportation costs rose 6.1% in June with the index increasing 23.8% over the previous 12 months, almost the same percentage increase recorded for the index in the 12 months ending in June 2021. Combined, the transportation index in the Atlanta area has risen 53.3% since June 2020.

Gasoline cost increases were a major contributor to the rise in transportation costs with gasoline costs rising 16.3% in the two months ending in June and increasing 50.8% over the past year. Since June 2020, gasoline costs in the Atlanta area have increased 140.3%.

Costs for all items less and food and energy in the Atlanta area increased 1.5% for the two months ending in June. The index rose 9.7% over the past 12 months.

The index for all items less food and energy in the U.S. increased 1.3%, while the 12-month increase was 5.9%. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank sees labor and price pressures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about District economic conditions visit:

Sunday, October 17, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia economy gains lower than the nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Georgia unemployment claims leveling off after benefit cutback effects fade

 When Georgia chose to end its involvement in the additional $300/week unemployment benefits being provided by the Federal government, Governor Kemp stated as its reasoning: 

“We've got to get more people in the work force," Kemp said on America's Newsroom. "We have a record number of jobs in Georgia. Georgia is open for business!” (WTGS

As a result of the state’s decision, effective June 26, 2021, Georgia’s unemployment benefits reverted back to its usual unemployment rules with unemployment benefits ranging from a minimum weekly benefit of $55 and the maximum of $365 based on the amount of wages earned in the base period for a maximum period of 20 weeks (Georgia DOL website). 

With several weeks of information on the state’s unemployment insurance claims now available, we can draw some tentative conclusions about the effect of that decision on the number of people in Georgia requesting unemployment assistance. 

Georgia initial claims 

A review of Initial unemployment claims in Georgia show a pattern of decline over a two-week period from 19,761 reflecting the week ending June 26, down to 12,605 for the week ended July 10. From that point, the number of initial claims has remained steady at approximately 12,000 each week for following two weeks, reflecting the weeks ending July 17 and July 24. 

Between the weeks ending June 26 and July 24, the weeks since the change in unemployment benefits, Georgia has seen a 7,095 decline in initial claims; a drop of 36 percent. 

An initial claim is a claim filed by an unemployed individual after a separation from an employer. The claimant requests a determination of basic eligibility for the UI program. When an initial claim is filed with a state, certain programmatic activities take place and these result in activity counts including the count of initial claims. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, the count of U.S. initial claims for unemployment insurance is a leading economic indicator because it is an indication of emerging labor market conditions in the country. 

North Carolina initial claims 

While Georgia declined to continue providing Federally-funded unemployment benefits to its citizens, North Carolina has chosen to maintain the $300/week Federal payment in addition to the state’s $350/week maximum benefit. 

For the same time period, reflecting weeks ending June 26 to July 24, North Carolina saw a slight increase in the number of initial unemployment claims, from 4,879 in the week ending June 26 to 5,118 in the week ending July 31, a nearly 5 percent increase.

 North Carolina’s governor chose to veto a bill that would have ended the enhanced Federal benefit before its expiration date in early September. 

“Unemployment is declining with more people getting vaccinated and into the workforce as North Carolina has strengthened work search requirements for those receiving benefits. The federal help that this bill cuts off will only last a few more weeks and it supplements North Carolina’s state benefits, which are among the stingiest in the country. Prematurely stopping these benefits hurts our state by sending back money that could be injected into our economy with people using it for things like food and rent. I support strong efforts to make more quality childcare available and to provide businesses with funds for hiring bonuses and the bill falls short on both of these,” Gov. Cooper said. (WBTV

Continuing claims 

Both Georgia and North Carolina have seen a steady decrease in continued unemployment claims since early July. Georgia did see a 23 percent jump between the weeks ending June 19 and June 26, but since then continued claims have declined by 51 percent. Since the end of May, continued claims in Georgia have dropped by 40,855 (-31 percent). 

In North Carolina, there was no spike between June 19 and June 26. Since the end of May, continued claims in North Carolina have dropped by 9,648 (-21 percent). 

A person who has already filed an initial claim and who has experienced a week of unemployment then files a continued claim to claim benefits for that week of unemployment. On a weekly basis, continued claims are also referred to as insured unemployment, as continued claims reflect a good approximation of the current number of insured unemployed workers filing for UI benefits. 

The U.S. Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration argues that a count of U.S. continued weeks claimed is also a good indicator of labor market conditions. While continued claims are not a leading indicator (they roughly coincide with economic cycles at their peaks and lag at cycle troughs), they provide confirming evidence of the direction of the U.S. economy. 


While a longer pattern of weeks will provide a more complete picture, some preliminary judgments are possible. 

Initial unemployment claims in Georgia, which were already showing weekly declines before the week ending June 26, continued dropping until the week ending July 10. Those drops continued but accelerated after the week ending June 26 for a couple of weeks before leveling off at a point lower than during the 2020 Covid year but higher than in the pre-Covid summers of 2018 and 2019. 

It is impossible to say whether the weekly decline might have occurred even if the $300 payments had continued in Georgia, but the most recent weeks indicate that any incentive brought about by the $300 loss in benefits at the end of June appears to have been outweighed by other factors such as the number of job opportunities available that will utilize workers’ past experiences, employees’ reluctance to return to work in conditions that might expose them to Covid-19 and its variants, inability to find work at suitable pay levels, as well as other issues such as family responsibilities that require at-home attendance of relatives and children. 

Certainly the loss of $300/week weighed on unemployed workers personal budgets, whether it produced a dramatic longer-term rise in the availability of labor remains problematic.

Georgia Initial Claims Data 

Number of initial claims reflecting the week ending: 

5/22/2021    24,622

5/29/2021    22,240

6/05/2021    22,524

6/12/2021    20,698

6/19/2021    20.749

6/26/2021    19,761

7/03/2021    14,475

7/10/2021    12,605

7/17/2021    11,985

7/24/2021    12,666

 Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

Monday, July 12, 2021

Emerging employment center: The Georgia High-Tech I-85 Corridor


The story of the Atlanta metro region has been a story of growth and expansion from the original core counties of Fulton and DeKalb outward, and the Georgia High-Tech I-85 Corridor in the northeast section of the state is an emerging labor market that deserves more attention.

As metro area employment has grown from 2.1 million in 2001 to 2.6 million in 2020, growth pushed out mainly to the north and northwest into northern Fulton County, as well as Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth, and Gwinnett counties, along with the Gainesville, Ga., MSA that includes only north central Hall County.

One area that stands to benefit from continued metro Atlanta growth are the counties along interstate highway I-85 that connects Atlanta through Greenville, South Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina with Richmond, Virginia.

In all, six counties make up the labor market that is anchored at one end by fast-growing Gwinnett County, the corridor extends up to Hart County, which borders South Carolina. Other counties include Banks, Barrow, Franklin, and Jackson.

Lower land prices, access to growing centers, such as Atlanta using the I-85 interstate highway and rail freight lines, as well as a lower average wages related to a lower cost of living are encouraging increases in both population and jobs in the corridor.

Unlike Silicon Valley, or Boston’s Route 128 Technology Corridor, the I-85 corridor is likely to develop primarily with a manufacturing and distribution supply-chain focus.

Below is a profile of the corridor.


Census Bureau figures show that the counties in or closest to the Atlanta metro area have shown the most growth from 2010 to 2019, while those farther away from Atlanta have slower growth rates but contain large areas of undeveloped land to accommodate future growth.

The six counties along the corridor posted a combined population growth rate of 16 percent over the nine-year period, compared to a 9.6 percent growth rate for the state. Jackson and Barrow counties each recorded growth of more than 20 percent over the past nine years, while Gwinnett County, with 80 percent of the six counties’ total population, grew at a remarkable 16.3 percent.

With population growth comes demand for additional goods and services and also an increasing labor force available to meet employers’ demands for workers.


The Census Business Bureau tells that the six counties in the corridor have a higher percentage of the working age population in the labor force compared to the state (67.2 percent compared to 63.2 percent), with a lower percent in poverty (11.2 percent compared to 15.1 percent).

African-Americans make up 24.4 percent of the population compared to 31.6 percent statewide, while Hispanics (of any race) make up 18.7 percent compared to 9.5 percent statewide. Nearly 22 percent of the population is foreign-born, where that percentage drops to 10.1 percent for the state. It is likely that the largest proportion of the foreign-born reside in Gwinnett County with fewer as you travel towards the state border.

As an aside, the number of people who spoke an Asian or Pacific Island language at home was nearly 3x as large in the corridor counties (3.4 percent vs. 1.1 percent statewide). Again, it is likely that Gwinnett County residents have a large impact on these numbers.


From the end of 2001 through 2020, employment in the corridor has increased by nearly 28 percent compared to Georgia’s statewide gain of nearly 16 percent.

Gwinnett County, on the southwest end of the corridor, currently makes up over 80 percent of the corridor’s labor market, so that one county has a huge influence on the corridor’s employment statistics. While the Gwinnett County’s private sector employment has grown by more than 53,000 jobs, the other five counties in the corridor have added an additional 30,000 jobs, resulting in an employment growth rate of nearly 28 percent since the end of calendar year 2001.

Goods-producing and goods distribution has been particularly strong in the counties that make up the corridor. With lots of undeveloped land close to a major metro area and along an interstate highway and rail system, the corridor smaller losses in manufacturing employment compared to the state over the past 19 years while recording larger increases in employment in transportation and warehousing.

Since 2001, manufacturing employment has declined by 17 percent, while employment in transportation and warehousing have risen by 2.5x. In comparison, the state’s manufacturing dropped by 23 percent, while employment in transportation and warehousing grew by 36 percent.

If reshoring of manufacturing, as being now discussed, becomes a fact, it is likely that the counties along the corridor will benefit disproportionately.

The announcement of creation of a new inland port tied to the Port of Savannah in neighboring Hall County will also support manufacturing and warehousing in the adjacent counties of Banks and Jackson counties.


As for wages, compared to the average annual private sector pay of $67,068 for the Atlanta metro area in 2020, average annual pay in the six counties ranged from $36,431 in Banks County to $58,224 in Gwinnett County, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. This compares to average private sector pay in Georgia at $59,805, and $64,238 for the U.S.

For goods-producing industries (a sector that includes natural resources, construction, and manufacturing), average pay ranged from $45,757 in Franklin County to $67,842 in Gwinnett County, with the state averaging $61,461.

Average income in the six-county corridor was $87,284, $4,800 more than for Georgia as a whole.


The Georgia High-Tech I-85 Corridor represents an emerging labor market located along a major north-south interstate highway and near the growing Atlanta metropolitan region. Emerging labor markets can be difficult to neatly define, as they are not usually included in the regular definitions of statistical areas designated by Federal statistical agencies such as Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics, but that makes watching them grow even more interesting.

Continued economic growth in the Southeast, along with manufacturing reshoring and the possibility of increased exports through the Port of Savannah, will all contribute to the corridor’s economic future.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

More economic indicators point to a strong recovery in Georgia’s economy


If the drop-off in Georgia’s economy in the first quarter of 2020 was dramatic, then it is equally useful to use that same word “dramatic” to describe the shape of the state’s recovery in early 2021.

New government surveys provide additional light on how strongly Georgia’s economy is rebounding after Covid-19 closures and restrictions throttled Georgia’s economy a year ago.

Business Formations Survey

The first step for an individual wishing to set up a new business is an application for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) that can grant the company or nonprofit enterprise other benefits such as applying for a business license or to hire employees.

The Census Bureau tracks the number of EIN applications as an economic measure of early-stage business activity. Even during the initial pandemic shutdown months in the first quarter of 2020, the number of applications for EINs in Georgia remained high with more than 85,000 applications received between January to May 2020. (Business Formation Statistics (BFS) (

For the first five months of 2021, this number almost doubled to more than 163,000 applications indicating a large interest in the formation of new businesses in the state.

Data on business formations by county lag the statewide numbers, but Census has just released data for Georgia counties in 2020.

As expected, the counties with the largest existing employment also tend to have the largest number of new business formations, and since these are in the Atlanta metro area, counties in the Atlanta metro area lead the list. In 2020, Fulton County reported 51,935 applications, up by more than 18,000 from 2019. DeKalb County was second with 31,442 applications (up by almost 13,000) and followed by Gwinnett County with 29,296 (up by almost 8,9000) and Cobb County at 23,941 (up by more than 7,6000). Clayton County came in fifth on the list with 14,733 new applications, up by more than 7,400 over 2019. No other Georgia county showed greater than 10,000 new applications in 2020.

Counties showing fewer applications in 2020 as compared to 2019 included Rabun, Evans, Glascock, Towns, and Colquitt counties.

Because a company that ceases operations may still retain their EIN, there is no information on the number of companies that may have ceased operations.

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey

Job openings in the state reached 313,000 in March 2021, up from 170,000 for the same month a year ago, while the number of layoffs and discharges fell from 293,000 in March 2020 to 51,000 in March 2021, according to new information released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of their experimental Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey states estimates (JOLTS Experimental State Estimates).

While job openings express a level of optimism on behalf of employers, the number of hires represent a real economic cost to employers, and here again, hires in Georgia in March totaled 193,000 compared to 147,000 a year ago. The hires rate for the state came in at 4.3 compared to 3.2 last year.

Equally impressive, the number of voluntary quits increased over the year from 76,000 in March 2020 to 124,000 in March 2021 with the Quits rate jumping from 1.6 to 2.8. Quits are seen as an important indicator as how much confidence workers have in their ability to find a new position. While the quits rate has been higher in the past, the current level still shows optimism from workers about their employment futures, at least sufficiently that they believe they are finding better opportunities by changing jobs.

Current Employment Statistics

For all the positive indicators highlighted above, the good news on Georgia’s economic picture must be tempered by the recognition that the state has not yet completely regained levels reached before the 2020 economic downturn.

In May, Georgia achieved an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, much better than the 9.4 percent rate in May 2020, buy still above the 3.6 percent rate in May 2019, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the same manner, while the number of unemployed in the state has been cut in half since last May, it is still some 28,000 higher than in May 2019, while the state’s nonfarm employment is still 125,000 short of its May 2019 level.

Georgia nonfarm employment, Jan. 2019 to May 2021, seasonally adjusted

All this points to the fact that while the state’s economy continues to make a record rebound from the 2020 downturn, the state’s labor force needs continued employment growth to catch up with its pre-Covid job levels.

Monday, April 26, 2021

More than 800,000 Georgians work in low-wage occupations with substitute teachers and restaurant workers among lowest paid jobs


Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Short-term substitute teachers and restaurant workers were among the lowest paid occupations in Georgia according to survey data released in April by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program.

In Georgia, the median wage for a substitute teacher was $9.08 per hour, while waiters and waitresses averaged $9.12. Both wage rates are classified as low wage and were less than 50 percent of the median wage of $18.59 recorded in the state for all occupations.

In all, nearly 845,000 Georgians worked in low-wage occupations where the median wage was less than $12.45 per hour. Low-wage occupations are defined as those that pay 2/3’s or less of the state’s median wage. Approximately 1.4 million Georgians are in occupations where the median wage is below $15 per hour.

Substitute teachers

The median wage for substitute teachers in metro areas of Georgia ranged from $8.61 in the Columbus metro area to $11.74 in the Hinesville metro area. The Atlanta metro area, which was home to largest percentage of substitute teachers in the state, paid a median wage of $9.09, close to the state average.

While the median wage was relatively uniform among areas, some areas reported a much higher average wage. The Valdosta metro area posted a median wage of $8.98 per hour, but an average wage of $17.54. The Macon area recorded a median wage of $11.65 but an average wage of $14.71.

The median wage provides the middle number among workers, the average reflects wages that tend to be outliers both at the lower and higher ends of the range. In a normal distribution of wages, the median and average wage would be close, but a higher average wage as compared to the median reflects higher wages being paid for some substitutes, perhaps reflecting more years of service to their educational systems or pay for some additional skills or educational background.

Restaurant workers

Of the lowest paid occupations in the state, those occupations with a median pay of between $9 to $10 per hour, 80 percent (237,000) were in occupations normally associated with full-service and limited-service restaurants.

The largest group were fast food and counter workers with median wages of $9.29 per hour followed by waiters and waitresses with median wages of $9.12. The highest paid group were dishwashers with median wages of $

In May 2020, eight food-related occupations employed more than 247,000 people in Georgia, while in May 2019, these same occupations employed more than 289,000 workers, a more than 15 percent decline.

Combined, these seven occupations employed more than 237,000 people in the state in 2020 with a median wage of less than $9.30 per hour.

With the coronavirus-related restrictions on restaurants, the number of people in these food-related positions actually declined 14 percent from 2019, when they totaled 275,660 workers.

About the data

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey is a semiannual survey

measuring occupational employment and wage rates for wage and salary workers in nonfarm

establishments in the United States. The OEWS data available from BLS include cross-

industry occupational employment and wage estimates for the nation; over 580 areas,

including states and the District of Columbia, metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs),

nonmetropolitan areas, and territories; national industry-specific estimates at the

NAICS sector, 3-digit, most 4-digit, and selected 5- and 6-digit industry levels;

and national estimates by ownership across all industries and for schools and hospitals.


The OEWS survey is a cooperative effort between BLS and the State Workforce Agencies

(SWAs). BLS funds the survey and provides the procedures and technical support, while

the State Workforce Agencies collect most of the data. OEWS estimates are constructed

from a sample of about 1.1 million establishments. Each year, two semiannual panels

of approximately 180,000 to 185,000 sampled establishments are contacted, one panel

in May and the other in November. Responses are obtained by mail, Internet or other

electronic means, email, telephone, or personal visit. The May 2020 estimates are based

on responses from six semiannual panels collected over a 3-year period: May 2020,

November 2019, May 2019, November 2018, May 2018, and November 2017. The unweighted

sampled employment of 83 million across all six semiannual panels represents

approximately 56 percent of total national employment. The overall national response

rate for the six panels, based on the 50 states and the District of Columbia, is 69

percent based on establishments and 66 percent based on weighted sampled employment. 


Monday, April 12, 2021

Georgia's jobs market – suburban Atlanta counties win the prize

 Forsyth County, Ga., change in jobs, 2001-2019

Echols County, Ga., change in jobs, 2001-2019

Source for both graphs: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

20-year trends in Georgia's job market

Important as month-to-month changes are to the employment picture, sometimes it helps to take a longer view. We now have definitive information on how employment in Georgia has shifted from 2000 to 2020. Those data demonstrate longer-term trends that may well affect every aspect of the Georgia’s future.

In June 2000, jobs in Georgia totaled 3.9 million. Twenty years later, in June 2020, that number had jumped to almost 4.2 million jobs resulting in a job growth rate of 7 percent over two decades, an increase 2.5x greater than the nation.

Using information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) for each June between 2000 and 2020, a picture builds on how Georgia’s labor market has evolved. June is a good reference month because it represents both the middle of the year and the end of the state’s fiscal year.

Rather than a smooth upward climb during those 19 years, the state’s job market has experienced both highs and lows. From 2000 to 2010, Georgia actually lost nearly 145,000 jobs as recessions in 2001 and from 2007 to 2009 (the Great Recession) struck harder in Georgia than the nation as the state saw its percentage of job loss reach twice the national average.

The following decade, 2010-2020, saw a massive recovery in jobs as the state added 275,000 jobs (11.2 percent) even including the first six months of 2020, which saw the Covid-19 related recession.

Within that overall picture of declines followed by increases, is a series of dramatic changes within the state.

Dominance of Atlanta suburban counties

The story of Georgia’s jobs growth has been the dominance of the growth of jobs outward from the Atlanta core into the counties surrounding that core.

Fulton County includes much of the City of Atlanta and boasts a job base twice the size of any other county in the state. Despite this impressive statistic and the fact that the Atlanta metro area has been the job engine for the rest of the state, suburban Gwinnett County nearly tied Fulton County with each county seeing the creation of more than 53,000 new jobs since June 2000.

While Fulton County recorded a job rate on pace with the state’s overall percentage gain, Gwinnett County grew more than twice that rate, and Gwinnett was not even the fastest growing county in the metro area. That record belongs to Forsyth County, whose jobs base grew by 117 percent over the past 20 years, followed by Henry County, up 99 percent, and Cherokee County, up by 89 percent.

In another measure of the changes taking place within the Atlanta metro area, in June 2000, Fulton County contained more jobs (754,000) than the five Atlanta suburban counties combined (Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cobb, Henry, and Cherokee). In June 2020, those same five counties contained more jobs (877,000) than Fulton County alone (807,000).

Population growth leads to job growth

One of the stories in the past two decades has been the growth in population in the outer ring counties surrounding Atlanta. The story continues to be one of population growth leading to job growth as jobs follow population increases in the Atlanta metro area county by county outward from the City of Atlanta core.

Between 2010 and 2019, Georgia’s population grew by 9 percent, faster than the U.S. average of 6 percent. Fulton County increased its population by an impressive 15 percent, but Gwinnett County even exceeded that rate, with a population increase of 16 percent, and counties such as Cherokee and Forsyth exceeded even that growth rate, albeit starting from a smaller base.

A continuing story for the coming decade is the job growth in counties located even farther from the Atlanta core, such as development of Jackson County, located to the northeast of Atlanta along the I-85 transportation corridor. The county recorded a 74 percent growth rate over the 20 years, adding 16,000 jobs. That this job growth is continuing is evidenced by the new EV battery plant being built in the county to meet the needs of auto manufacturers in the Southeast.

With lots of relatively inexpensive land available for development, the county, along with neighboring Barrow County, are well positioned to take job growth away from higher cost but still fast-growing Gwinnett County, just as Gwinnett County has grown by seeing jobs shift out of Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Whether work-from-home practices developed in response to Covid-related social distancing, as well as technological changes that allow remote working will result in more movement out from the core will be a story to watch.

Not all Atlanta counties are benefiting from the changes

Even as the Atlanta metro area led the state in job creation, some of the job growth in the fast-growing counties came at the expense of two other Atlanta area counties – Clayton and DeKalb – both of which saw declines in their job numbers.

DeKalb County lost a net of more than 32,000 jobs over the past two decades, as severe losses between 2000 and 2010 were followed by a weak recovery the following 10 years.

Clayton County suffered net losses in both periods resulting in a decline of nearly 20,000 jobs between 2000 and 2020. Clayton County’s employment has traditionally been tied to the transportation industry, as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located in Clayton County and many of the county’s residents have travel-related jobs, such as those working at Delta Air Lines. The Great Recession in 2007-2009 followed by the impact of Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 greatly impacted Clayton County and it remains to be seen if employment will rebound as these restrictions are relaxed, or whether the jobs lost may not return.

Loss of employment in small rural counties

While one story is the fast-growing Atlanta area with two counties (Clayton and DeKalb) not participating in the area’s expansion, the second story is that ongoing job losses in many of the state’s rural counties.

Georgia is unusual in having 159 counties, many of which are relatively small geographically, so county employment is easier to watch than in states where larger counties can mask areas of decline.

In Georgia, 14 counties saw job declines of 50 percent or more between June 2000 and June 2020. Many of these counties have been seeing declines in employment opportunities even before 2001. As their job markets grew smaller, the lack of opportunities forces a downward spiral in jobs. Counties with already small job markets see their share of the state’s job growth become even smaller.

Echols County, in southeast Georgia, is an example. The mostly agricultural area recorded a net loss of more than 900 jobs between 2000 and 2020. As of June 2020, the county had no incorporated municipalities and reported a total of only 535 jobs, of which 346 were in private industry and the remainder in government. Not surprisingly, the county’s population has also declined, dropping by 7 percent between 2010 and 2019. Population will most likely continue to decline, probably at a slower rate than job losses, as some job seekers either commute out of the county to work each day, or move to where job markets are growing, while people not in the labor force choose to stay due to connections in the county.

Other counties with severe job losses included Murray County, down 73 percent (-5,900 jobs), Jenkins County, down 109 percent (-1,600 jobs), and Marion County, down 127 percent (-1,500 jobs).

In total, 88 of Georgia’s 159 counties have recorded a net decline in jobs of one percent or more since 2001. As of June 2020, these 88 counties reported a combined employment declines of more than 175,000 jobs.

As of June 2020, Fulton County was home to the largest number of jobs of any county in the state, with employment totaling a little more than 800,000. The was equal to the employment totals of 129 of Georgia’s smallest counties.

Where does Georgia go from here?

The Georgia state legislature will be redrawing its Congressional and state legislative districts based on data from the 2020 Census. While Census data is based on population, not jobs, the direction of job growth and decline, provides good evidence on how the state’s economy is adjusting.

Jobs continue to be concentrated in metro areas, and particularly in the Atlanta metro area, although these are increasingly being created on the outer ring of the core urban area. Workers in small rural counties find fewer opportunities as jobs disappear, although as evidenced by Clayton and DeKalb county declines, even being located in a geographical region with lots of jobs prospects does not insure that your county will benefit from the overall trend.

Fewer jobs lead to fewer job prospects, leads to movement of job seekers out of the area, which in turn creates a declining economy as employees are also consumers who take their purchasing power with them.

The tension between metro Atlanta and the rest of the state has traditionally been between the City of Atlanta and rural Georgia, but increasingly, suburban counties, and especially the outer ring counties around Atlanta, will hold the balance of economic and political power in the state unless the trends of the last 20 years shift significantly in the next decade.

The new battleground is not between rural and urban Georgia, but a fight by the fast growing outer ring counties around Atlanta to obtain both the respect, which they believe is currently lacking, and the political power to shift rules and laws in their favor.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Transportation and warehousing industry job growth in Georgia demonstrate contrasts in employment during 2020


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released their final employment estimates for 2020, and transportation and warehousing employment stands out as the bright spot in Georgia's employment picture. 

Although the industry suffered losses in the first months of 2020, it rebounded quickly and finished out the year with a net gain of 7,200 jobs, while overall private sector employment in the state fell by 185,700. 

Both the losses and gains in employment reflect the changes undergone by the state’s economy as the coronavirus impacted the state’s job market. As people turned away from travel and in-person shopping, they increased their online and food delivery purchases. These changes are clearly reflected in the state’s employment numbers. 

Within the transportation and warehousing industries, employment in air transportation fell by 6,600 and trucking jobs declined by 400. These losses were offset by gains of 5,500 in couriers and messengers, and 10,000 in warehouse and storage. 

Both couriers and messenger and warehouse and storage occupations hit their highest level in their statistical series, which began in 1990. 

As expected, the leisure and hospitality sector showed the most significant job losses in Georgia, with employment decreasing by 78,800 over the year, a drop of 15.8 percent. 

The next largest decline occurred in other services, where employment dropped by 17,200, or 10.3 percent. Other services include businesses involved in equipment and machinery repairs and maintenance; as well as providing personal services such as laundry and housekeeping; and organizations supplying religious, grantmaking, and advocacy services. 

While the private sector saw a 4.6 percent employment decline, the public sector was affected as well. Government jobs located in Georgia dropped by 21,200 or 3 percent. 

The unanswerable question is to what extent people will revert to their previous habits, or may choose to adopt their newer choices as their customs from this point forward. 

Effective with these data, all nonfarm payroll employment estimates for have been adjusted to 2020 benchmark by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not seasonally adjusted data beginning with April 2019 and seasonally adjusted data beginning with January 2016 were subject to revision. Some not seasonally adjusted and seasonally adjusted series may have been revised as far back as 1990.   

Financial-related jobs in Georgia escape the worse in 2020


Financial sector employment in Georgia ended the year in relatively good shape, especially when compared to other sectors in the state. 

The financial activities sector, ended 2020 with 253,900 jobs, representing a net loss of 900 jobs or 0.35 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the sector as including jobs in banking, commercial and consumer lending, investment activities, insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing services. 

Financial activities employment accounts for approximately 5.5 percent of the state’s job market, but its key role in facilitating financial transactions -- involving the creation, liquidation, or change in ownership of financial assets – makes it a critical part of the state’s economy. 

Within the financial sector, losses were concentrated in the real estate and rental and leasing industry, which saw an employment decline 1,500 jobs while the other industries in the sector saw net growth of 2,400 jobs. About a quarter of the financial activities employment in the state is located within this industry. 

The relatively small loss in this sector compares to a net loss of nearly 207,000 jobs, or -4.4 percent in the state’s overall jobs market in 2020. 

Financial activities did record a net decline of 7,600 jobs over the first four months of the year, but then added 6,700 jobs in the remainder of 2020. Within the sector, the real estate and rental and leasing industry in the state suffered slightly lower losses in the first four months, declining by 6.800 jobs, but then recorded a slower recovery, adding 5,300 jobs over the following eight months. 

Georgia’s experience was very similar to the nation with financial activities nationally recording losses in the first four months followed by a rebound in the remainder of the year. Like in Georgia, financial activities across the U.S. recorded a small (-0.58 percent) net decline in 2020, while the national job market showed a 6 percent decrease compared to the previous year. 

Effective with these data, all nonfarm payroll employment estimates for have been adjusted to 2020 benchmark by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not seasonally adjusted data beginning with April 2019 and seasonally adjusted data beginning with January 2016 were subject to revision. Some not seasonally adjusted and seasonally adjusted series may have been revised as far back as 1990.    

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta reports moderate expansion of economic activity

The Federal Reserve Board has published (March 3, 2021) their latest edition of their Beige Book, which describes ecoomic conditions in the various Federal Reserve Bank Districts. Below is the report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. You can see the complete report for all districts at

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Summary of Economic Activity
Economic activity in the Sixth District expanded modestly, on net, from January to mid-February. Labor markets improved some as employers added to headcounts, and wage pressures remained muted. Increases in certain nonlabor costs were noted, and pricing power among firms was mixed. Retailers reported continued strong demand in home furnishings and recreational products. Online sales continued to outpace brick-and-mortar sales. Auto sales increased, exceeding expectations. Tourism contacts saw an uptick in activity over the reporting period as domestic travel rebounded slightly. Demand for housing remained robust, inventories of new and existing homes fell, and home prices rose. Commercial real estate markets were mixed. Manufacturing activity accelerated as new orders and production levels increased. Conditions at financial institutions were stable, but loan demand weakened.

Employment and Wages
On balance, contacts indicated that employment levels and hours worked rose modestly over the reporting period. Most reported that employment levels were even with or below pre-pandemic levels, and about half of contacts expect to increase employment levels slowly as demand improves. Large leisure and hospitality firms reported a strong willingness from furloughed employees to return to work when called back. Among firms planning to reduce employment levels over the coming months, most planned to downsize through attrition rather than layoffs. Those hiring indicated that most jobs were easy to fill with the exception of lower-skilled positions, nurses, and long-haul drivers. The remote work stance was largely unchanged since the previous report, and several noted that this has allowed them to fill higher-skilled positions more easily. Many firms indicated that they planned to encourage employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine but at this point would not require it. Some contacts were offering paid time off to get the vaccine or were looking to provide the vaccine onsite.

Most contacts noted that wage pressure remained subdued. Shortages of nurses, skilled trades workers, warehouse workers, and commercial drivers were putting upward pressure on wages in those occupations according to several contacts. In Florida, most employers anticipate little impact from the mandated increases in the minimum wage (by 2026), although a few noted they were investing in capital to replace some of this labor. Many expect normal merit increases during 2021, with higher increases in critical and high-demand fields.

Consistent with previous reports, input costs, particularly for lumber and steel, continued to rise notably over the reporting period. Transportation and shipping costs continued to increase as well, with some contacts noting supply chain constraints creating upward cost pressures. Reports on pricing power were mixed. Sectors such as construction, manufacturing, and transportation that were affected by rising input costs implemented increases, while others were unable or unwilling to raise prices. The Atlanta Fed's Business Inflation Expectations survey showed year-over-year unit costs increased notably to 2.1 percent in February, up from 1.8 percent in January. Year-ahead expectations remained relatively unchanged at 2.2 percent.

Consumer Spending and Tourism
Home furnishings and recreation goods retailers reported a continuation of strong demand that began last March. Online sales continued to grow at a faster pace than brick and mortar sales. Auto sales in January outpaced expectations, and dealers reported a positive outlook for the balance of 2021; however, suppliers to the industry noted that shortages of semiconductors could impact future volumes.

Travel and tourism contacts reported a slight uptick in activity since the previous report. Domestic travel rebounded slightly and is expected to continue to strengthen as the COVID-19 vaccine is more widely distributed. Contacts expect that leisure travel will begin to normalize towards the end of summer, while business travel is expected to pick up in the fourth quarter of 2021 but remain well below pre-pandemic levels.

Construction and Real Estate
The District's housing market maintained its momentum as rising home sales continued to be fueled by low interest rates. In many markets, sales increased sharply from a year ago. Inventory shortages were prevalent as available homes for sale did not keep pace with demand. New home construction also fell short of market demand, and shortages of lots, materials, and labor increased costs for builders. As a result, both existing and new home prices have experienced significant upward pressure. Though low rates have helped offset rising prices, home ownership affordability declined overall. The level of mortgage delinquencies, while elevated due to the pandemic, remained stable over the reporting period.

Commercial real estate (CRE) contacts reported that the sector continued to be hampered by the effects of the pandemic; however, some areas of CRE showed improvement. Conditions in the retail sector improved modestly and rent collections recovered from the dismal results experienced in mid-2020. Multifamily conditions were mixed; however, leasing activity appeared to be picking up in some of the harder hit areas. The hospitality sector continued to be negatively impacted by low levels of tourism. Banks reported that financing for commercial projects was available and demand for new construction rose.

Manufacturing firms indicated that business activity accelerated since the previous report. Contacts reported an increase in new orders and production levels, while purchasing managers continued to see longer supply delivery times and slightly elevated finished inventory levels. Expectations for future production remain optimistic, with almost two-thirds of contacts expecting higher levels of production over the next six months.

On balance, transportation activity was consistent with the previous report. Railroads noted further improvements in overall traffic buoyed by double-digit increases in intermodal shipments. Freight brokerage firms reported robust demand and revenue growth as limited trucking capacity boosted rates per mile. Port contacts noted record container volumes amid surges in imports and an uptick in exports. Trucking contacts continued to benefit from strong demand for consumer staples; however, driver shortages remained a constraint in the industry despite rising wages. Inland barge and relocation contacts, however, continued to experience challenges due to COVID-19, and a return to pre-pandemic levels of activity is not expected until 2022 or beyond.

Banking and Finance
Conditions at financial institutions were steady. Net interest margins stabilized even as loan yields declined due to lower funding costs. Earnings also improved slightly as a result of lower provisions for credit losses. Loan growth declined due to tepid demand, especially among commercial customers, resulting in higher balances in banks' cash accounts and securities portfolios amidst healthy deposit growth. Despite concerns that increased unemployment levels might negatively impact loan payments, credit quality stayed strong at most banks. Customer loan payment performance continued to improve, with some banks reporting extremely low past due loan levels; however, retail delinquencies were still elevated in comparison to other commercial borrowers.

In parts of the District, residents and businesses grappled with power outages and rolling blackouts during mid-February winter storms. Refiners, chemical manufacturers, and liquified natural gas producers in Southwest Louisiana were forced to idle production. Fuel carriers in the region reported a severe backlog of deliveries as hazardous road conditions, power outages, and terminal shutdowns created delivery congestion and delays. Crude oil production was steady, and oil and gas rig counts gradually picked up. Contacts described a moderate recovery of consumer demand for petroleum products. However, refiners continued to experience low utilization resulting from weak global demand for refined products. Some refiners took production offline while others were forced to consolidate or shut down completely. Renewables remained strong, with considerable solar, wind, and battery storage projects in the works across the country. Within the utilities sector, contacts noted energy usage remained sensitive to COVID-19 conditions. More broadly, though, energy contacts continued to express optimism about COVID-19 vaccinations stimulating economic activity.

Agricultural conditions remained mixed. Abnormally dry conditions prevailed across much of the District. On a month-over-month basis, the February production forecast for Florida's orange crop was up while the grapefruit production forecast was unchanged; both forecasts were below last year's production. The USDA reported year-over-year prices paid to farmers in December were up for corn, cotton, rice, and soybeans but down for cattle, broilers, eggs, and milk. On a month-over-month basis, prices increased for corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, cattle, and broilers, but decreased for eggs and milk.

For more information about District economic conditions visit:‐matters/regional‐economics