by Taylor Bryant
The University of West Georgia’s Center for Business and Economic Research recently released the Summer 2013 West Georgia Regional Update, a research study that provides economic findings from Carroll, Coweta, Douglas, Haralson, Paulding and Polk counties. You can download the full report here.
For the West Georgia region, unemployment rates in June 2013 were lower in five of the region’s six counties compared to June 2012. Only Carroll County saw an increase over the past year, up to 10.5 percent in June 2013 compared to 10.3 percent in June 2012. Four of the six counties had an unemployment rate at or below the state rate of 9.3 percent in June 2013.
According to the research, unemployment rates across the state and the West Georgia region have risen over the past two months leading some to speculate that there may be a return to a more difficult job market; however, the numbers may be somewhat misleading. Between June 2012 and 2013, while adding another 2,302 persons to the labor force, the region has seen 3,485 more of its residents find jobs.
“Although the unemployment rates for some counties have increased over the last few months, the increase has come as a result of more people entering the labor force, not fewer people being employed,” says Dr. William “Joey” Smith, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research in Carrollton. “Some of the increase is coming from new graduates entering the labor market, but a large amount of that increase is coming from discouraged workers starting to look for work again. That actually is somewhat encouraging.”
The study notes that although goods-production jobs have started to mount a recovery in individual counties in the region, for the region overall, job numbers are still down; however, recent new firm announcements and the start of West Georgia’s housing recovery have injected some optimism into the outlook for this sector. West Georgia’s government sector has held steady as a share of total employment over the recession and recovery (between 18- 20 percent), despite having shrunk by about 2,000 jobs in the region. However, recent data indicates modest year-over-year gains in government jobs for the West Georgia Region.
“The most positive news is really two-fold,” says Dr. Smith. “First, we are seeing growth in firms. There have been several announcements of new employers moving to the region, and they aren't confined to one county. Secondly, as we start to see people find employment, albeit slowly, this has helped to stabilize the housing market. We are seeing higher sale prices, shorter times on the market for houses for sale and more housing permits being issued. Although new houses are not being built at nearly the rates seen before the recession, demand is starting to rise. All of these indicate a movement back to a healthier economy.”
Most significant were the decision of Trident Seafoods to open up a processing facility in Carrollton, the announcement that Gordon Food Service will be building a new distribution center in Douglasville, the plans for additional utility vehicle production at the Yamaha Motor manufacturing facility in Newnan and the expansion of the Jefferson Southern steel production plant in Rockmart (Polk County). Altogether, these four expansions are expected to add more than 500 jobs in the region over the next three years. Carroll County is also likely to see 20 new jobs as a result of a planned expansion at Printpack Inc.
“The issue of most concern is the speed at which we add to our job base,” says Dr. Smith. “We need faster growth in business and its employment than we are currently seeing to employ or re-employ workers in West Georgia. We also need to start seeing the unemployment rate move back to pre-recession levels.”
For more information on the Center for Business and Economic Research, visit www.westga.edu/econ.