Showing posts with label gwinnett county forsyth county. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gwinnett county forsyth county. Show all posts

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.