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

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Georgia has weathered the Covid employment loss but not all counties had recovered as of mid-2022

The continuing good news is how Georgia’s employment recovered from Covid-related layoffs and firings, but that overall number ignores how employment changes at the county level has been uneven.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has now released job numbers through June 2022, and even as the state added 136,572 jobs between February 2020 and June 2022, 61 counties out of 159 remained below their pre-Covid employment levels. This comes even as Georgia has outpaced the nation in job creation during that period with the state employment rising by 3%, more than twice the 1.4% recorded nationwide.

Counties losing employment

Of the 61 counties, 17 counties were already losing jobs prior to February 2020, so it is more difficult to say how the Covid-related layoffs affected these counties. One county, Burke, is an outlier in that the massive expansion of the Plant Vogtle nuclear facility has distorted the county’s underlying jobs numbers by pushing them up during the height of construction and then seeing them recede as construction comes closer to a conclusion.

For the remaining 43 counties, the employment losses, while not large when measured statewide, can be significant to local economies.

A county-by-county employment count shows that while many of these counties are in rural parts of the state, some counties struggling with continued job losses include Cherokee, Cobb and Clayton counties in the Atlanta metro area, Clarke County (Athens metro area), Richmond County (Augusta metro area), Muscogee County (Columbus metro area), and Bibb County (Macon metro area).

As a percentage of total county employment, the largest losses have occurred in:

Randolph County -289 (-14.7%)

Montgomery County -223 (-14.0%)

Dooly County -447 (-12.6%)

Taliaferro County -21 (-9.7%)

Jones County -354 (-8.3%)

Sumter County -742 (-6.8%)

For the counties in metro areas of the state, the losses remain significant. Clarke County is showing 4,762 fewer jobs (-6.7%) compared to its February 2020 numbers, Muscogee County -3,883 (-4.1%), Bibb County -3,400 (-4.1%), Clayton County -3,912 (-3.2%), Richmond County -2,535 (-2.4%), Cherokee County -190 (-0.3%), and Cobb County -154 (-0.0%).

In total, the 43 counties have lost 30,926 jobs (-2.2%) from February 2020 to June 2022. Keep in mind that these losses have occurred even though Georgia has outpaced the nation in job growth over the same time period.

Counties gaining employment

While the losers have been overlooked, the counties winning the employment battle have also been ignored. Many of these 16 counties, like many of the losing counties, start from a relatively small employment basis, so small net gains can have a large impact on local economies.

For some counties, such as Coweta, Jackson, and Butts, the large percentage increases reflect the Atlanta area’s continued population expansion as rural counties become drawn more into the Atlanta metro region. Jackson County is a good example of a county located along the I-85 corridor with lower land costs and allowing easy access to the Atlanta, Athens, and Gainesville metro areas for workers willing to commute.

A number of these counties are outside metro areas, some in the North Georgia mountain region such as Rabun and Union counties, and while it is hard to measure the work-from-home (WFH) movement, it is likely having an impact on these counties, as well as the possibility that people choosing retirement after Covid-related closures and layoffs also chose to move to these close-to but not in metro areas for quality-of-life reasons.

Morgan County with its employment growth is somewhat similar to Jackson County since it is located on the I-20 corridor, close to the Athens metro area, and offers a favorable work-from-home as well as a retirement environment.

Counties showing large percentage increases in employment between February 2020 and June 2022 include:

Jackson County 9,404 (29.5%)

Berrien County 673 (20.1%)

Bryan County 1,578 (17.4%)

Morgan County 1,226 (16.7%)

Hart County 823 (12.5%)

Lumpkin County 945 (12.4%)

Coweta County 4,879 (12.0%)

Warren County 156 (11.9%)

Marion County 134 (11.9%)

Butts County 850 (11.6%)

Rabun County 593 (11.3%)

Union County 779 (11.3%)

Clinch County 254 (11.0%)

Decatur County 880 (10.8%)

Candler County 348 (10.6%)

Long County 104 (10.1%)

 Conclusion

Georgia has certainly benefited from the nation’s economic recovery, post-Covid employment gains, but that benefit has not been shared equally among all of the state’s 159 counties. Some are well-positioned for the next downturn in the economy, if one comes, while others have still not recovered from previous losses. It remains to be seen how state policies will affect these separate groups of counties moving forward in to 2023.