The first economic data for 2023 is in, and it isn’t good news for the Augusta Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Employment fell by 2,000 from December to 242,200 which was its lowest level since March 2022. By comparison, employment in the state of Georgia rose by 16,600, and 8,900 in South Carolina. Nationally, the economy added 517,000 jobs in January.
Most industries increased employment at the national level, with leisure and hospitality leading the way. Employment in these areas increased by 128,000. Likewise, the Augusta MSA leisure and hospitality jobs increased by 560, the largest of any sector locally. Manufacturing and mining, logging, and construction all saw employment increases in January from December.
However, our economy diverged from national trends in January, as we saw employment fall across a range of other industries. The largest loss was in professional and business services at 520 jobs, followed by retail with 450 jobs and health and education services at 400 jobs. In contrast, nationally, private education and health services saw the second-largest increase in employment at 105,000.
Although the employment level locally has only been falling for two months, the labor force consisting of those in work or looking for work, has been falling since May 2022. We have lost almost 4,000 workers from the labor force in just over 6 months. In response, employers have started to increase wages. Average weekly earnings have increased by almost $50 since November.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment rates for MSAs. Jobless rates were lower in 297 of the 389 metro areas in January than a year earlier. These 297 included Augusta, which had an unemployment rate of 3.8% (not seasonally adjusted) compared to 4.0% a year earlier. Of the 14 MSAs in Georgia, only four had lower unemployment rates than a year earlier. I had a glass of Black Velvet Nitro Stout from Savannah River Brewing and a glass of Dark Druid Irish Stout from Riverwatch Brewery to celebrate!