Unemployment Rate Drops Again While Unemployed Georgians Decrease To Pre-Pandemic Level

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday that Georgia's unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.5 percent in August, now lower than the rate of 3.6 percent the state recorded in March 2020 prior to the pandemic. The unemployment rate fell as the number of unemployed, almost 182,000, fell below the pre-pandemic level of 187,000.

Even though the state is currently seeing record unemployment rates and continued increases in employment, the concern remains on how to attract more individuals to the workforce to fill vacant jobs. The labor force remains down 31,000 from the number of Georgians in the workforce in March 2020 and the number of employed remains down 26,000 from pre-pandemic levels. The number of jobs recorded in August was down 5,000. However, job losses in Accommodation and Food Services and Retail Trade, where employers continue to struggle to find workers, negated what otherwise would have been a job gain of over 4,000 over the month. Despite the slight job loss, since May of 2021, jobs are up over 71,000, but are still down 107,000 from the pre-pandemic total. 

"Job growth will become stagnant if we don’t fill the hundreds of thousands of jobs that we currently have open right now,” said Commissioner Mark Butler. "The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed by the number of people in the labor force and that includes both the unemployed and the employed. We are not seeing the number of Georgians rejoin the labor force at the same pace as we are seeing employers post jobs and we are taking an in-depth look at why.”

The GDOL recently hosted a series of virtual recruitment strategy sessions for employers across the state to discuss recruiting practices to help employers hire and retain quality employees. These sessions looked at untapped workforce populations, hiring incentive programs, employee attraction and retention ideas, pandemic workplace considerations, and how the GDOL is addressing critical labor needs. 

The GDOL collected information from over 750 jobseekers and employers prior to the sessions on various questions concerning employee attraction and retention.  When researching the reasons for the workforce shortage, employers blamed unemployment insurance benefits, employees not wanting to work, and an unqualified workforce.  Many employers stated they were not able to hire applicants due to poor resumes, criminal backgrounds, and failed drug screens. Jobseekers said they were discouraged from applying due to a lack of qualifications, fear of COVID exposure, and a desire for higher salaries and benefits.  However according to survey results, 69 percent of employers say they have been increasing pay scales, 46 percent report increased flexibility with education and experience requirements, and over a third say they have enhanced benefits and are now hiring more seasoned (individuals over 50 years of age) workers.

"We are hearing from employers who are raising salaries and enhancing benefits packages and are still not able to fill these jobs,” said Commissioner Butler. “Based on what we are seeing, it may take months, if not years, for the job market to return to some type of normalcy.”

The August jobs report announced the labor force was up 3,885 over the month to 5,174,352. The number of employed was up 15,686 in August to 4,992,696, while the number of unemployed was down 11,801 to 181,656. Initial claims were down 10,939 (-19 percent) from July to August to 47,872 for the month and are down 199,751 (-81 percent) over the year.

Although jobs were down 5,000 (-0.1 percent) over the month, they are up 199,500 (4.6 percent) over the year to 4,559,600. Since April 2020, 502,600 (83 percent) of the 609,500 jobs lost in March 2020 and April 2020 have been gained back.

The sectors with the most over-the-month job gains included Administrative and Support Services, 3,500, Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, 2,500, Non-Durable Goods Manufacturing, 1,000, Finance and Insurance, 800, Wholesale Trade, 700, Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation, 500, and Health Care and Social Assistance, 400. The sectors with the most over-the-month job loss included Accommodation and Food Services, -7,300, Retail Trade, -1,700, Specialty Trade Contractors, -1,500, Local Government, -1,000, and Repair and Maintenance, -1,000. During August, there were several all-time highs noted in the areas of Professional and Business Services, 747,300 jobs, the Professional, Scientific & Technical sector, 294,200 jobs, and the Administrative and Support Services sector, 367,300 jobs.

There are over 200,000 jobs posted on Employ GA. Combined, 70,000 of those jobs are in the Health Care, Retail Trade, and Accommodation and Food Services sectors. In many cases, employers are willing to train quality candidates and assist with obtaining additional credentials.

To take advantage of recruitment tools available to manage an employee talent search at no cost, employers can reach out to the Georgia Department of Labor for support and also access Employ Georgia to post job openings, search applicants, and invite potential candidates to apply. For more information on jobs and current labor force data, visit Georgia LaborMarket Explorer to view a comprehensive report.

 


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