State unemployment nears record low

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, January 17, 2019

On Thursday, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced that the unemployment rate in the state had fallen nearly a full point during 2018 and is now approaching Georgia’s all-time low.

Statewide, the unemployment rate hit 3.6 percent in December 2018, which is down 4.5 percent from December 2017. According to Butler, Georgia’s all time low is 3.4 percent.

That statistic is paired with a record high of 4.6 million jobs in the state, with 114,000 jobs added in 2018. Of that number, 16,700 jobs were added in December, and those numbers are impacting businesses and job seekers in Troup County.

“The great news for job growth and opportunities continues,” County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews said. “As with most parts of our state, Troup County has experienced a very low unemployment [rate] for a sustained period. We have created a very desirable business environment within our county. Through several efforts such as the Workforce Development Initiative headed by the [LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce], our community is trying to maintain our steady job growth.”

According to information released by the governor’s office last year, Troup County’s growth contributed significantly to the state’s overall growth, with more than $1.2 billion in capital investment projects under construction or completed and more than 2,000 new jobs in LaGrange and Troup County in fiscal year 2018, which ended in June. This results in low unemployment for the area.

“Record low unemployment is great for local job seekers,” LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said. “Anyone who wants a good paying job should be able to find one. I’m thrilled that so many local companies, large and small, are doing well and expanding their business.”

While regional and county statistics have not yet been released for the full year of 2018, labor statistics for Troup County for November 2018 show that Troup County’s unemployment rate was 3.0 percent in November 2018 and 3.3 percent in October 2018. Those unemployment rates are below the state’s rates of 3.5 percent for November 2018 and 3.6 percent for October 2018.It also falls below Troup County’s unemployment rate of 4.0 percent for November 2017. However, local leaders noted there can be a downside to low unemployment.

“The good news is that jobs are available for those that are qualified and want them,” Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz said. “The bad news — if you want to call it that — is it becomes difficult for us to hire employees. It drives the cost of our labor up, so from the city’s perspective, all in all it is very positive, but we have to take the good with the bad.”

Stankiewicz said Hogansville City Manager David Milliron is working with the Department of Labor to set up an apprenticeship program and recruit qualified employees to the area.

Meanwhile, in LaGrange, efforts are being made to strengthen workforce training programs.

“The same good news on jobs poses a challenge for workforce development,” Thornton said. “I’m glad that our local leaders are working with local businesses, schools and colleges to address these workforce issues through new training programs and recruitment efforts.”

The areas that saw the most job growth in Georgia in 2018 were trade, transportation and utilities with 28,600 jobs added; professional and business services with 24,700 jobs added; construction with 21,500 jobs; education and health services with 15,600 jobs; and leisure and hospitality with 13,300 jobs.

“This has been a great year for Georgia,” Butler said. “We exceeded everyone’s expectations. I’m confident that 2019 will be another great year. We’ll continue to improve and set records.”

According to Butler’s office, Georgia’s labor force, which it defines as the number of residents with jobs and those unemployed but actively looking for work, decreased by 3,058 in December. At the end of the year, 5.1 million Georgians were considered part of the labor force.

As of November 2018, there were 37,096 people in Troup County’s workforce, which was down from November 2017 when 37,838 were part of the workforce.