Jobs recovery: a tale of two Georgias

The Department of Labor reports that the state unemployment rate stayed steady last month at a seasonally adjusted 8.9 percent. But it’s hard to know what to say about that one data point since there’s always a lag between the release of the headline figure and the release of the data on which it is based. We’ll get the hard numbers in about a week at the same time the regional unemployment rates are released.

The numbers released this past week detail employment as reported by payroll establishments.

Georgia posted a year over year statewide gain of 34,000 jobs compared to May 2011. That’s an improvement of less than 1 percent — pretty meager job growth considering the recession officially ended almost three years ago.

But the jobs recovery is certainly not even across the state. Check out the gains from the last year for the following metro areas:

  • Atlanta  +27,900
  • Athens  +2,700
  • Macon  +2,000
  • Gainesville  +6,100

That’s a net gain of a quite decent 38,700 jobs in the north central portion of the state. But that means the rest of the state combined has lost 4,700 jobs over the past year.

Valdosta had OK job growth between May 2011 and May 2012  (+700) and so did Brunswick (+400). Savannah’s numbers are dismal though (-2,600), with Augusta (-5,700) and Dalton (-5,200) even worse. I’m intending to look a little deeper at the numbers to get a better sense of the jobs picture for the approximately 1 in 6 Georgians who don’t live in metro areas, but I haven’t done that yet.

My main hypothesis about the unevenness of the recovery: The housing bust spread like a virus, hitting major metros first and then worming its way into the hinterlands. Here in Savannah, there were still speculators making horrible bets through 2007 and even deep into 2008 on a misguided assumption that we would somehow be “immune”. So our recovery is simply lagging areas that hit bottom sooner.

So when the Department of Labor touts the statewide recovery, keep in mind that the picture is much darker in the rest of the state than it is in a few major metros.



  1. “We’ll get the hard numbers in about a week…”

    It seems those hard numbers have been slightly worse than the initial reports for the past several weeks. I’m glad some parts of Georgia are recovering somewhat but you’re right Bill other parts are not. So coupled with your analysis of the sales tax numbers and now the Medicaid shortfall we’ve still got a bumpy road ahead of us.

    People expecting the State Government to “restore the cuts” better think again.

    • Bill Dawers says:

      Bumpy road for sure — I’ll be curious to see the rest of the data.

      I guess I should also add that these payroll numbers remain well off their pre-recession peaks. The Atlanta MSA’s current 2.35 million jobs is still well off the 2.46 million in May 2008, although Atlanta’s numbers over a period of months now definitely justify some optimism up there.

    • NorthGAGOP says:

      What cuts dd the legislature make this year? Did they even hold spending to last years levels?

  2. SallyForth says:

    With most of the jobs being in the Atlanta metro area, more people will probably be moving here from out in the state to seek jobs. Ergo, traffic problems will only get worse. Maybe folks need to seriously rethink T-SPLOST.

  3. Dave Bearse says:

    Interesting theory, the delay. There is also delay in the time it took for south Goergia metro areas areas to “feel” the decay of Atlanta economic growth, the engine of Georgia economic growth for a few decades. (The fall line metros Columbus, Macon nd Augusta are south Georgia to me.)

    It’s a sunset effect, where the day’s heat lingers well after the light that generated the heat is observed fading. It’s yet cool in Atlanta, but that’s a step up from 2009 cold. Let’s hope even the cool here will soon be felt in a cold south Georgia.

    (And how much of this is attributable to the effect of Georgia’s immigration law on agriculture?)

    • Bill Dawers says:

      That’s a great final parenthetical question. That’s my second hypothesis, but I decided not to get into that here. There were ripple effects for housing, retail, tax revenue, etc., in addition to the direct losses to farmers.

  4. seekingtounderstand says:

    Todays AJc reported that Georgia only gets approx. 10% of its food from local sources.
    If you look at what the supplementation of supported needed to help cheap/illegal/undocumented labor live, whats the true next cost for GA taxpayers?

    Would love to see more of our food from Georgia but less illegal immigration flooding the job market and driving down wages of the working class and teenagers.

    • Harry says:

      As I said before, the best stimulus to get people to work would be to eliminate WIC. If the children are hungry then let parents go to special shelves in the grocery store where they can obtain bulk dried beans, dried rice, dried milk, local produce in season. Nothing else. And, it should be paid for by local community or churches, not the federal government.

      • This has got to illustrate one of my favorite conservative idiotic standpoints – for lack of a better term I call it the “we want the same result only achieved radically differently”. So here, it is having the “local community” or churches subsidize food purchases instead of the federal government. I will assume that local community at some point means local taxes, so you’d like to transfer tax liability from the federal government to local governments, with the same effect. And that some of the taxes you don’t pay will instead go to the church who will then pay it.

        Insanity. It reminds me of the classic “Fair Tax Argument” which goes something like “Revenue will stay exactly the same, we are just changing the rate it is collected at per person.” To which my favorite rejoinder to dumbass poor hicks who supported it was – the total tax amount collected will be the same, yet businesses will be exempt from paying taxes and only individuals will pay it. You are an individual. All taxes on corporate profits and purchases will be removed. The amount of tax will be the same. How will you personally not be paying more?

  5. soccer mom says:


    Of all the federal programs to select and hold up as an example of ineffective – WIC is the wrong one. It is one of the few federal programs that actually works because it specifies purchase options yet it is woefully underfunded. I advocate fully funding the programs that work and eliminating or redesigning the ones that fail to meet their objectives.

    • Harry says:

      Granted, you can make a better argument for WIC than SNAP, but both programs are unconstitutional. Nutrition assistance to welfare recipients is a responsibility of the states, localities, churches, and families – actually in reverse order.

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