Private vs. public payrolls in Georgia since 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I said that I would take a look at private vs. public payrolls in Georgia over the last few years.

So in this post I’m simply comparing the payroll employment data from the Georgia Department of Labor for June 2008 (available via spreadsheet here) vs. June 2012 (the most recent month released). The recession began in late 2007, but Georgia’s total payroll employment was slightly higher in June 2008 than in June 2007. Employment tends to be a lagging economic indicator — establishments with payrolls are slow to fire and slow to hire.

First some data and then a few comments.

In June 2008, Georgia had 4,120,400 nonfarm payroll jobs. Of those, 3,437,800 were private and 682,600 were public.

Here’s the breakdown of those government jobs in June 2008:

  • Federal: 98,400 (37,600 Dept. of Defense)
  • State: 158,000 (71,100 State Govt. Educational Services)
  • Local: 426,200 (259,900 Local Govt. Educational Services)

In June 2012, Georgia had 3,933,300 nonfarm payroll jobs. Of those, 3,271,100 were private and 662,200 were public.

Here’s the breakdown of those government jobs in June 2012:

  • Federal: 101,700 (42,300 Dept. of Defense)
  • State: 147,200 (72,700 State Govt. Educational Services)
  • Local: 413,300 (245,200 Local Govt. Educational Services)

So in June 2012, 16.8% of all jobs in the state were public; that’s up slightly from June 2008, when 16.6% of all jobs in the state were public.

A few observations:

  • Just as employment is a lagging indicator generally, public employment declines have lagged private sector declines in this downturn. We will likely see government employment fall below that 16.6% level of 2008.
  • Federal and state government employment in Georgia declined from June 2011 to June 2012, with declines in both Dept. of Defense employment and in State Government Educational Services.
  • Local government employment in Georgia actually increased 1.9% between June 2011 and June 2012, although Local Government Educational Services employment fell 0.6% in that time.
  • Georgia’s private sector increased employment by a decent 1.4% over the past year.
  • If we subtract the number of defense jobs, we’ve seen a decline in other federal jobs since 2008.
  • Without the steep declines in education jobs, Georgia’s local governments have actually added a few jobs over the last four years.
  • Of the total decline from June 2008 to June 2012 of 20,400 in government payrolls, 14,700 of those job losses were in local education.

It’s obviously important to remember that many government agencies and departments did not see the same collapse in demand that the private sector saw. Much of the government workload (education, sanitation, law enforcement, etc.) is directly proportionate to the size of the population, not to economic activity.

Full disclosure: I teach at Armstrong Atlantic State University, so I count as one of those state employees in education.


    • Harry says:

      If Georgia can cut an additional $553 million per year for each the next 10 years, then we’ll be about where we should be with state expenditures.

      • I Miss the 90s says:

        If Ga could increase spending by $553million a year then in ten years we may have a competitive education system as well as a transportation infrastructure appropriate for the growing population of Ga.

  1. Michael Wald says:

    I agree with your numbers, but I think more needs to be said concerning the 12-month growth in local government (up 1.9 percent over the 12 months) and what it says about the state as a whole. Together with the T-SPLOST defeat, it is says a lot about Georgia preferring government close to home. The farther the separation between the voters and their government, the less trust they show, which these numbers tend to prove. I think you also have to look at the overall weak growth in the state’s job market. Yes, jobs grew over the year (45,200 not seasonally adjusted or 42,700 if you use the seasonally adjusted numbers), but that growth put Georgia towards the bottom of states reporting a statistically significant change over the June-to-June period. Lacking the oil exploration and mining that is driving job growth in some states, Georgia needs to consider a renewed emphasis on manufacturing and non-people transportation, as well as agriculture as the source of future job growth. That probably means possible good news for most of the state outside the Atlanta metro area, and, of course, re-emphasizes the need for a transportation infrastructure statewide that will support the moving of goods rather than people. There are a lot of good possibilities for the state’s future, but the T-SPLOST in most regions would have funded the wrong type of infrastructure by emphasizing moving people over moving goods. A “One Georgia” philosophy does not mean that Atlanta must always be in the lead as the engine of the state’s growth.

    • Calypso says:

      “A “One Georgia” philosophy does not mean that Atlanta must always be in the lead as the engine of the state’s growth.”

      Everywhere other than Atlanta is still trying to find a spark-plug to put in their engine, let alone being the lead engine. There are about twice as many people in metro Atlanta as the rest of Georgia combined.

      • Michael Wald says:

        Actually, the Census 2011 population estimate for Statewide Georgia is 9,815,210 and for the City of Atlanta, it is 432,427; which means the City of Atlanta contains approximately 4.4 percent of the state’s population. My point remains that we need to re-think what will bring economic growth (and therefore jobs) to the state. I suggest that manufacturing and agriculture with a strong supporting infrastructure (wholesale trade, goods transportation and utilities including communications) that allows these goods to be economically produced and exported from the state hold the best possibility of long-term, sustainable growth.

        • Calypso says:

          Not to split hairs, but the 2010 MSA for metro Atlanta was 5,268,860 out of a state population of 9,815,210 which is 53.68% of total population. I was wrong about the ATL MSA being twice the rest of Georgia’s count, by 13%.

          I agree that the rest of the state needs to bring more than a bag of chips to the party which the Atlanta MSA continuously throws on their behalf. Perhaps your idea of manufacturing and agriculture is the answer. Three TSPLOSTS were passed last week in areas other than metro Atlanta, maybe something will come of it.

          • Bill Dawers says:

            Lots of interesting points in this thread. Let me pick up on a few of them.

            This post wasn’t intended as a survey of employment generally, but I’ve made posts here regarding that issue before. Atlanta and a few nearby metro areas are showing quite decent job growth right now, but Savannah, Augusta, and a few other smaller metros are lagging.

            The year-over-year increase in non-education local government jobs certainly warrants continued attention. It might just be an anomaly. Since some metros are seeing improving economic conditions, local municipalities might have filled vacant positions in law enforcement and the like. It’s possible that the bulk of the increase has been concentrated in one or two large metros. Someone would need to look deeper into the numbers.

            I agree with Michael Wald that we need to strengthen infrastructure directly related to commerce, but I fear that’s about all we’re going to be doing here on the coast in the coming decade or so with the defeat of T-SPLOST. The state might come up with the lion’s share of the $800 million to deepen the Savannah River channel and it seems likely that the state’s transportation austerity will still find money to facilitate truck traffic out of the ports. But what about quality of life? What about safe bridges to Tybee? What about the long-delayed efforts to improve commutes on DeRenne and the growing stress on I-16? What about our cash-strapped bus system?

            If residents spend more money on transportation and waste more time doing it, the economic gains from improved business infrastructure will disappear.

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