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Simon Says: Looking at the labor market

The Augusta Metropolitan Statistical Area had the worst labor market over the last year of all metro areas in the state of Georgia. The Labor Market Index (LMI) for Augusta fell 0.4 percent from March 2022 through March 2023. Only Hinesville and Warner Robins also saw declining LMIs. The Georgia LMI grew by 0.9 percent over the past year. Columbus had the best labor market over the last year.

Across the state, employment increased by 2.8 percent, or 133,400 jobs over the last year. By contrast, Augusta lost 1,100 jobs or 0.5 percent. Across the state, average weekly earnings have increased by 2.7 percent. It’s not enough to cover the rising level of prices, but better than the 1.2 percent we have seen locally.

If we compare the Labor Market Index of Augusta and Georgia since data became available in 2007, we see that the two economies largely moved in sync until 2015 (see graph below). Since then, the Georgia economy has grown much faster than the Augusta economy. The average annual growth rate in Augusta since mid-2015 is 0.36 percent. The rate for Georgia is three times faster at 1.1 percent. If employment had grown at the state average since 2015, (14.5%) there would be 20,000 more jobs in Augusta today.

One reason for the divergent growth is that the number of business establishments in Augusta grew by 18.8% between 2015 and the third quarter of 2022, while in the state of Georgia, the growth almost doubled at 31%. Other areas of the state are making it more attractive to set up businesses, whether through better local regulations, better workforce development, or other measures of economic well-being that attract people to live in those areas. Since 2015, the population of the Augusta MSA grew by 4.4 percent compared to 5.9 percent in Georgia.

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