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.