Showing posts with label job growth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label job growth. Show all posts

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Columbus, Georgia, employment problems larger than Fort Benning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Work-related deaths and injuries on the rise in Georgia: A silent epidemic

Despite a 26 percent increase in one year, there has been practically no focus on the rising number of workers in Georgia who are dying and being injured at work.

In 2014, 148 workers died during job-related activities in the state, an increase of 31 over the year, according to preliminary reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, the number of deaths rose by 94, an increase of 2 percent.


Violence on the job was a key factor in the rise in Georgia, with the number of work-related deaths due to intentional injury more than doubling over the year from 15 to 32. The number of work-related suicides rose from 6 to 14.

The sharp rise in violence contrasts with a very low increase in the number of roadway incidents that resulted in deaths, which have been the main cause of work-related fatalities in past years. In 2014, road deaths accounted for 36 fatalities, up by only 3 over 2013.

Other leading causes of work-related deaths in 2014 included falls (26 deaths), being struck by object or equipment (15 deaths), and nonroadway incidents involving motorized equipment (11 deaths).

Of the 148 total fatalities, 134 workers were employed in private industry while 14 deaths occurred to workers employed by governments in the state. This compares to the 117 deaths recorded in 2013, of which 108 were in private industry and 9 were in government.

For 2014, the increase in fatalities occurred among men, as the number of men dying on the job increased from 103 in 2013 to 136 in 2014. Deaths among female workers actually declined over the year from 14 to 12.

Nonfatal injuries and illnesses

Georgia workers suffered nonfatal injuries and illnesses at a rate of 2.9 per 100 equivalent full-time workers in 2014. While this remains below the national average of 3.2, it is an increase over 2013 when the state recorded a rate of 2.8.

In contrast, the U.S. recorded a decrease in the rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses, dropping from 3.3 per 100 equivalent full-time workers in 2013 to 3.2 in 2014.

Why the increase and why is it being ignored?

While Georgia focuses on job growth, the growing number of injuries and deaths goes unreported in the media and the state chooses not to highlight this growing epidemic.

In part this may be due to the state’s decision several years ago to move the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses and Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from the Georgia Department of Labor to the state’s Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner. This office may not recognize the importance of the data or may choose to play down numbers, which they may feel reflect badly on the state's reputation.

While individual deaths are sometimes, but not always, reported in the media, it is hard for the casual reader or viewer to see the aggregated result or understand the trend. Nonfatal injuries and illnesses are much less likely to receive media attention, so they often remain "under the radar."

A harder question to answer is why are more people in Georgia getting injured and dying on the job?

Some of the increase in fatal and nonfatal injuries can be attributed to more workers returning to work after the recession. It is expected that with more people on the job, there are more possibilities for work-related injuries. Yet, Georgia’s job growth is only equal to the national average, while the number of fatal and nonfatal injuries and illnesses is growing faster than the U.S.

Even as the numbers grow, Georgia’s nonfatal injuries and illness rate is staying below the national average. Some of this lower rate reflects the state’s mix of industries, as the state moves towards an increasingly white-collar economy. Office jobs tend to have fewer serious injuries then those in traditional manufacturing, construction, and transportation industries.

More work needs to be done to determine why Georgia’s work-related deaths and injuries are increasing, but if the numbers are simply ignored, than there is no incentive to work to lower them.

For workers and their families, each person who goes to work each day expects to come home alive and uninjured. For more Georgia families, that appears to be a false expectation.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Annual job creation slows

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unemployment rate

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

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


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Where did Zippia go wrong?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unemployment rate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent job growth

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

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

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

Future job growth

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

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

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

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

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

Sales tax

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

Median household income

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

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

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

Job losses in Georgia counties

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

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

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

Table A. Net job losses in calendar year 2014

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

Table B. Percentage job losses in calendar year 2014

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

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