According to the Georgia Department of Labor, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 8.7 percent in October, the lowest level since early 2009.
I’ve talked here before about the slipperiness of unemployment estimates, but the data released today fit pretty neatly with the narrative of a slow but steady recovery for the state’s economy.
The headline unemployment rate comes from a survey of households, but the more reliable of today’s numbers come from a survey of payroll establishments. That survey shows the state with 3.97 million jobs in October, up 68,000 from October 2011. That’s a pretty healthy increase of about 1.7 percent — probably faster than the growth in the state’s population.
But as I’ve noted here repeatedly, the jobs recovery has not been even across the state. Three metro areas are still showing year-over-year declines: Columbus (-.6 percent), Augusta (-1.7 percent), and Dalton (-3.8 percent). After straggling for many months, things have picked up here in Savannah, with a 3.0 percent year-over-year gain; Atlanta payroll employment is up a solid 1.5 percent since October 2011.
According to the statewide payroll jobs estimates, only two key sectors are continuing to show annual employment declines: construction and government.
We’ve actually seen a slight increase in the number of Georgians employed in “construction of buildings”, but that has been offset by a decline in “specialty trade contractors”.
The 7,600 job decline in government employment from October 2011 to October 2012 has been concentrated in two areas: defense (-1,800 jobs) and local education (-5,600 jobs).
The decline in education employment is even more worrisome given the fact that the state’s population increased over the last year.