For The Record

Georgia unemployment rate at record low in November

By: - December 20, 2019 8:27 am

Georgia set a record low 3.3% unemployment rate in November. The largest job growth in 2019 is in the retail and food preparation industries. StockSnap/Pixabay

The state Department of Labor announced Thursday that last month Georgia’s unemployment rate dipped to 3.3%, the lowest since the federal government began tracking jobless rates in 1976.

The record comes a decade after a recession led to the state setting record highs in unemployment.

It wasn’t until spring 2017 that Georgia’s unemployment rate bounced back to pre-recession levels.

Georgia’s unemployment rate is lower than the national rate of 3.5% in November, according to the preliminary figures released Thursday.

“Unemployment rates are at historic lows, workforce participation is at an all-time high, and job creators have Georgia on their minds,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement.

The state report shows that in November more than 11,000 Georgians were able to get jobs and employers added 6,500 new positions. It says a record 5.1 million Georgians are in the labor force.

Trade, transportation and utilities topped the list of growing fields, as well as education and health services, according to the state report.

Although the low unemployment rate is a positive, the state’s wage growth is falling behind, according to an analyst with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

Georgia’s retail and food prep service industries experienced the largest growth so far in 2019 at 20%.

The average food preparation job pays $10 an hour and the median pay across all industries in Georgia is $17 per hour, which has remained about the same since 2009, said Alex Camardelle, the institute analyst.

A livable wage, which accounts for someone being able to afford basic living expenses like food, housing and healthcare, would require someone making about $25 per hour in Georgia, he said.

“The jobs that are being created aren’t necessarily ones that promote economic mobility and that’s a huge challenge, especially if you live outside of the Atlanta area,” Camardelle said.

It’s not just lower paying jobs that’s contributing to the positive employment numbers.

The types of jobs Georgians are finding range from retail and hospitality to professional level, skilled technical positions like electricians and construction workers, according to Steve Morse, dean of Middle Georgia State University’s School of Business.

“If you’re a person looking for a job it’s great because there are so many jobs available,” Morse said. “If you’re on the business side looking for talent, it’s a heck of a problem attracting and keeping talent.”

Georgia Department of Labor figures show that in the middle Georgia region, the urban, highly populated areas around Macon and Warner Robins typically have a lower unemployment rate than the surrounding rural communities.

Then there’s the extremely low 2.6% unemployment rate for the Georgia mountains region that includes Banks, Dawson, Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin and eight other north Georgia counties.

Among the lowest employment rates are south Georgia’s Telfair County at 9% and Wheeler County at 7%.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.