Georgia has a lower percentage of unemployed residents now than it did immediately before COVID-19 arrived, with some locales, like Warner Robins, experiencing their lowest jobless rates ever.
In September 2020, around six months after the pandemic hit, the small city just south of Macon had a 5.3-percent jobless rate. Two months ago, Warner Robins’s rate fell to 2.9 percent, the city never before having seen such a small fraction of its residents out of work.
The jobs picture statewide is almost as encouraging, the Peach State’s department of labor having recently announced that its unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in August. In March 2020, the month before the spread of the novel coronavirus became rampant, 3.6 percent of state residents were officially jobless.
Many “progressive” states aren’t seeing the same progress. To underscore just a few high-profile examples: California’s August unemployment rate was 7.5 percent, Connecticut’s was 7.2 percent, Illinois’s was 7 percent, New Jersey’s was 7.2 percent and New York’s was 7.4 percent. All of these states have Democratic governors and overwhelming Democratic legislative majorities.
And they share other attributes: All permit agency shop (i.e., forced unionism) in employment contracts. Of all right-to-work states—those that have banned agency shop—only one (Nevada) has a jobless rate above seven percent. Only three others (Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) report that more than five percent of their working-age populations are officially unemployed.
All 22 other right-to-work states, including Georgia and all of its neighbors, have jobless rates below the current national average of 5.2 percent. The four states with the lowest unemployment levels (Nebraska having the lowest) all have right-to-work laws.
“The evidence suggests that if [forced-unionism] states had adopted [right-to-work] laws 35 years ago or so, income levels would be on the order of $3,000 per person higher today, with the overall effect varying somewhat from state to state,” labor economist Richard K. Vedder and legal analyst Jonathan Robe wrote in a 2014 examination of the effects of right-to-work statutes for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Also noteworthy: The eleven states with the lowest unemployment percentages have Republican governors. Of those, eight are identified by the nonprofit Tax Foundation as having below-average state/local tax burdens. Georgia is among them, ranking 41st in average combined local and state taxes.
In Warner Robins, 85,872 residents had jobs in August, 6,980 more than the number recorded during the same month in 2020. The small Northwest Georgia city of Rome also reached its all-time lowest level of joblessness last month, also at 2.9 percent. Gordon County saw an even more heartening number—2.5 percent—within its borders.
Other localities with improved jobs situations include Atlanta, Albany, Macon, Valdosta, Rockdale County, River Valley, Polk County, Hinesville, Georgia Mountains, Gainesville and Dalton.
The picture didn’t get rosier everywhere in August, however. Like other Georgia cities, the southeast coastal community of Brunswick has seen its unemployment rate fall significantly over the past year—from 6.3 percent to 3.2 percent in its own case. But jobless claims rose in that city by a striking 27 percent last month, raising its unemployment rate four-tenths of a percentage point from the prior month’s rate.
The nearby city of Savannah saw no change in its 3.1-percent unemployment rate from July to August. And improvement in the jobs landscape in Southern Georgia and Southwest Georgia has been somewhat disappointing; neither saw their jobless populations shrink from July to August and Southwest Georgia still has some room for improvement with an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent.
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