State sets employment records

Published 9:05 pm Friday, January 19, 2018

ATLANTA – State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced Thursday that 2017 was a banner year for job creation, employment and work force gains in Georgia.

According to the Department of Labor, in the last year Georgia has created more than 83,000 new jobs, employed thousands more residents, grew a much larger work force and unemployment has dropped 1.1 percent.

“As we look back at the year, it was impressive,” Butler said. “Over the year every major measurement improved considerably. In fact, we set records in several areas such as jobs, employment and work force.”

In his state of the state address last week, Gov. Nathan Deal said that the job growth in 2017 is part of a trend the state has seen in recent years.

“Seven years ago, Georgia’s unemployment rate stood at 10.4 percent,” Deal said. “Since then, we have created roughly 675,000 new, private sector jobs and our unemployment rate is at its lowest level in over 10 years at just 4.3 percent. And on top of it all, we have been named the number one state in which to do business for the fifth consecutive year.”
In December, Georgia added 5,600 new jobs to end the year with an all-time record high of 4,518,900, according to the Department of Labor. The previous high of 4,513,300 was recorded in November. Georgia’s 1.9 percent growth rate is higher than the national growth rate of 1.4 percent.

Regional growth numbers have not yet been released, but with announcements on major developments following one after another in Troup County, it is clear that there has been growth in the last year. That growth is expected to continue with the grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge in the spring as well as construction on Sentury Tire and Jindal Films to name a few. In fact, the surge of growth may create a need for more people to move to the area to fill those positions.

“In LaGrange, certainly we’ve got a lot of jobs coming our way, absolutely no doubt, and I know people are asking ‘where are these people going to come from?’” Troup County Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Crews said. “It is not just a local issue. It is a national issue, and so I certainly like to be in the position of creating jobs. I am glad of the fact that Troup County and this area — all the industry and attractions — is going to create jobs, and that is not necessarily a bad problem to have.”

Other projects across the state have resulted in impressive growth across the state and steadily climbing job numbers.
“Just this past fiscal year alone, the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Global Commerce team helped to generate $6.33 billion in investment,” Deal said. “That outstanding growth is a result of 377 expansions and locations that cover every region of the state. Many people think that economic development projects are only happening in the Metro Atlanta region, but in fact, 80 percent of fiscal year 2017 locations took place outside the Metro Atlanta region. Our dedication is to the whole state, and the results of our top-ranked Department of Economic Development bear that out.”

According to the Department of Labor, the number of employed residents grew by 162,351 over the year. The state’s labor force grew by 113,248 in 2017, confirming Crews’ statement that the need for additional workers to fill these new jobs will continue to be a focus at both the state and local level.

“Talking to other business people, we are just not seeing that many people applying for jobs,” Crews said. “People can be more selective during this time. In the back of my mind, I keep thinking about Hobby Lobby and what (a large number of job applicants) they told me they had, but you know Hobby Lobby and their reputation of their salary and the fact that they don’t work on Sundays, it attracted a huge amount of people. So, I think people can be selective, employees can. Employers are going to be on the other side of the pendulum struggling to attract folks.”

According to that same report from DOL, Georgians filed 325,597 initial unemployment claims in 2017, the lowest number posted since 1997. The 2017 numbers were down by 46,535 from 2016.

Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate fell from 5.5 percent to 4.4 percent over the 12-month cycle.

Areas that saw the most job growth in the state included educational and health services at 589,300, leisure and hospitality at 495,900, professional and business services at 20,500, education and health services at 19,600, leisure and hospitality at 14,300, trade, transportation and warehousing and 8,400, government at 7,000, construction at 5,500 and financial activities at 4,700.

According to DOL, the state grew jobs in all major employment sectors, except manufacturing where 3,800 jobs were lost.