Sun, May 19, 2024

Simon Says: Labor market changes since Covid 19

Last week, I reported that employment in the Augusta Metropolitan Statistical Area has surpassed pre-COVID levels, but what about other labor market indicators?

Unemployment in February 2020 was 3.8% and it is currently 3.6%. Unemployment spiked to 10.8% in April 2020, but fell rapidly and has been below 4% since June 2021. The labor force (those employed and unemployed) was 270,353 in February 2020. It fluctuated a lot over the next 12 months before settling into a narrow band either side of 264,000. Although employment has recovered, and unemployment is low, the labor force is still about 5,000 below pre-pandemic numbers.

Average weekly earnings increased from $864.86 to $1,027.11 in December 2023, but have since slipped back to $923.72. Over four years, this represents a 6.8 percent increase at a time when prices have risen 20 percent.

Average weekly hours worked was 35.1 in February 2020. This measure of the labor market has jumped around a lot on a month-to-month basis, but reached a peak of 36 hours in September 2020 before falling to 33.7 in March 2024.

Overall, the Augusta Labor Market Index (LMI) remains below pre-pandemic levels, indicating a very long COVID for the local area.

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