Georgia unemployment rate slips to 8.7%, lowest level in almost four years

November 15, 2012 15:14 pm

by Bill Dawers · 4 comments

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.

atlanta_advocate November 15, 2012 at 4:09 pm

What is the labor force participation rate compared to that of, say, 2006 in Georgia? I am open to the idea that the economy is getting slightly better, but am not totally convinced yet.

Bill Dawers November 16, 2012 at 9:57 am

atlanta_advocate,
I don’t think the Ga. Dept. of Labor releases that data point monthly, but they do release the number of Georgians who consider themselves to be in the labor force (employed or unemployed).

Not seasonally adjusted, there were 4.79 million Georgians in the labor force in Sept. 2012, versus 4.73 million in Sept. 2006. (If you want older data on the DOL website, go to Site Index and then go to Historical Data.) There was a big decline in the number in the intervening years.

That’s just a 1.2% increase in the number of Georgians in the labor force during a stretch in which the population probably great by 7% or so. Part of that is due to the deep recession — people just giving up looking for work.

But part of the decline in the participation rate is purely demographic: we have an aging population (retiring baby boomers) and we’ve seen a jump in college enrollment in the state.

And the number of people in the labor force has rebounded rather dramatically over the past year — it increased by about 50,000 in the state over the past year.

Bill McBride at Calculated Risk has some great discussions on this, including here just last week: http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2012/11/update-further-discussion-on-labor.html

I wrote about the participation rate in more detail here: http://www.billdawers.com/2012/10/08/labor-force-participation-rate-key-trends-to-understand/

SallyForth November 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for the info, Bill. Let’s keep our fingers crossed about January, when traditionally pink slips tend to start flying.

Bill Dawers November 16, 2012 at 9:08 pm

January is always a terrible month for employment, even when the economy is in good shape. The headline unemployment rate is adjusted for ordinary seasonal trends, so it really shouldn’t spike or drop dramatically because of a typically bad or good month, but it seems since the recession like the ordinary adjustments aren’t adequately accounting for the new realities . . .

Comments on this entry are closed.