Wed, June 12, 2024

Simon Says: Latest unemployment numbers up, wages down

Last week, I reported record-high employment numbers in the Augusta Metropolitan Statistical Area for the leisure and hospitality industry. Total employment is also nearing a record high, standing currently (May) at 246,100. The record high is 246, 500 in January 2020.

Unfortunately, some other measures of the strength of the labor market are not as robust. After spending the whole of 2022 at 3.5%, the unemployment rate started to rise in 2023. It currently stands at 3.8%, still low by historical standards. Part of the reason for the increase may be a rise in people in the labor force, those working or looking for work. The civilian labor force in the metro area has increased by 1,700 since January.

Average weekly earnings, on the other hand, have been falling this calendar year. Average earnings were $966 in January and $916 in May. Some of this decline in weekly earnings may be because workers are working fewer hours. The average weekly hours worked in January were 34.9, but only less in May. This suggests that some of the increase in employment may be in part-time positions.

Overall, the Augusta Labor Market Index, a composite index of the five labor market indicators, decreased 0.1% in May and is 0.7% below the level of a year ago.

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