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The Atlanta Fed's SouthPoint offers commentary and observations on various aspects of the region's economy.

The blog's authors include staff from the Atlanta Fed's Regional Economic Information Network and Public Affairs Department.

Postings are weekly.


April 25, 2014

Regional Payroll Growth Rebounds in March

According to last week's regional and state employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Sixth District states added 41,500 payrolls on net in March, and the unemployment rate rose slightly from 6.4 percent to 6.5 percent. This month's release also came with an upward revision to February data that indicated the District added 40,500 jobs that month, about 6,100 payrolls higher than the original February estimate. The table gives a state-by-state breakdown of payroll revisions:

140425_tbl1

The new March data and revised February data appear to be another step in the right direction and perhaps give a somewhat stronger signal that the region's labor markets are gaining some traction after experiencing a few months of slower job growth earlier in the year, a pattern not uncommon over the last few years. Not surprisingly, we've seen a similar pattern in the national data as well (see the chart).


Payroll survey
Once again, Florida was the primary driver of Sixth District payroll growth in March, adding 22,900 payrolls, with Georgia seeing a nice rebound (up 14,600) from February's negative payroll growth (when it was down 5,800). The only state to lose jobs from February to March was Mississippi, which shed 1,400 payrolls. This was the fourth straight month of net payroll losses in that state.

Florida's net payroll gain was the largest one-month addition of any state in the nation, according to the BLS report, and was driven by the leisure and hospitality sector (up 9,500), health care (up 3,300), construction (up 1,900) and manufacturing (up 1,500), and Georgia's net payroll gain—the third-largest of any U.S. state—was driven by retail (up 3,800), the professional and business services sector (up 3,300), and health care (up 3,200).

As for other District states, Tennessee experienced a modest gain in payrolls in March, adding 4,200 jobs. With the largest revision of any Sixth District state, Tennessee's February net payrolls were revised up 3,400 payrolls for a total of 10,300 payrolls. Tennessee's payroll growth over the two-month period of February and March was primarily concentrated in professional and business services (up 6,800 payrolls). Louisiana and Alabama respectively added 900 and 300 jobs in March (see the chart).


Household survey
The aggregate unemployment rate for the Sixth District rose from 6.4 percent to 6.5 percent in March. Half of the six District states experienced an increase in their unemployment rates (Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi), and Louisiana's rate remained unchanged, Georgia's fell from 7.1 percent to 7.0 percent, and Tennessee's fell from 6.9 percent to 6.7 percent (see the table).

140425_tbl2

Want to find out how many jobs it would take to lower the unemployment rate in any of the 50 states? Check out the Atlanta Fed's State Jobs Calculator.

The BLS's next regional and state employment report, which will reflect April data, will be released May 16.

Photo of Teri GaffordBy Teri Gafford, a Regional Economic Information Network director in the Atlanta Fed's Birmingham Branch

 

and

Photo of Mark CarterMark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department


December 31, 2013

Georgia, Tennessee Lead Regional Payroll Growth in November

In November, 45 states had unemployment rate decreases, and the other five had no change, according to the monthly regional and state employment and unemployment summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). All the states in the Atlanta Fed’s district were among those 45 states that saw declines in their unemployment rates, with the unemployment rates in both Georgia and Tennessee falling 0.4 percentage points (to 7.7 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively). The Sixth District aggregate unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points to reach 7.0 percent, mirroring the trend and level of the national unemployment rate in November.

Georgia and Tennessee saw the largest growth in payrolls in the Sixth District in November as well, according to the same report. Georgia added 14,500 payrolls in November (see the table), with roughly a third of those new payrolls being in the construction industry (up 4,400 payrolls). Roughly another third of Georgia’s job gains were in transportation and warehousing industries (up 4,100 payrolls), and the other third of Georgia’s payroll growth in November was split between leisure and hospitality (up 2,900 payrolls) and financial activities (up 1,700 payrolls). Employment growth in real estate was notable last month (up 1,200 payrolls). Tennessee added 9,400 payrolls in November, with about 2,500 of those payrolls in the leisure and hospitality sector and another 1,900 in durable goods–manufacturing industries.

Payroll Change Data

Three Sixth District states have unemployment rates higher than the national level of unemployment (Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi), and three sit below (Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana; see the chart).

Unemployment Rates for Sixth District States, and Sixth District Aggregate

The BLS will release metropolitan area employment and unemployment data for November, which will provide an even more granular view of regional labor markets, on Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at 10 a.m.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s research department


August 5, 2013

Water, Water Everywhere: An Update on the Georgia Economy

Well, it appears that Georgia now has a monsoon season. And that season is apparently now. The National Weather Service estimates that in the first seven months of the year, 45.8 inches of rain fell in Atlanta, already putting us well ahead of 2012’s total rainfall. Only seven years on record have had more rain so early in the year. And rain brings with it some friends, some more welcome than others. Mosquitoes and snakes are purportedly starting to make their way out in greater numbers. But, even if the sun isn’t literally shining much on the Peach State, things are starting to look a lot brighter on the economic front.

Georgia has seen a solid bout of employment gains so far this year, as economic headwinds diminish and hiring becomes more widespread. Growth has been led by remarkable strength in business services employment, a broad sector that includes things like administrative services, temporary help, and technical and scientific services.

The employment expansion has become increasingly broad-based, as the chart below depicts. In this chart, each bubble represents a sector—with the circumference of the bubble reflecting the relative size of that sector’s employment in the state. Each bubble’s location in the graph shows that sector’s employment momentum: the farther a sector is to the right, the stronger the 12-month performance, the closer to the top, the stronger the three-month performance. So, for example, business services—which employs more Georgians than any other single sector—is in the upper right-hand quadrant, indicating that it has been expanding on a year-over-year basis and has also been picking up speed over the three months ending in June. In fact, most sectors have been drifting toward the expanding territory recently, with the notable exception of employment in the federal government, which is still markedly contracting (though the number of federal government employees in the state actually grew in June for the first time since September 2012).



To show the state’s employment progress over time, the “snail trail” chart below tracks the movement of the state’s employment momentum since before the recession. Each point represents one month of data, with the path starting at the green dot in January 2007 and tracking to the most recent data point in blue. After spending a good deal of time contracting and expanding modestly, the state’s employment is on roughly a 2 percent path on both a 12-month and three-month basis and back near where it was in January 2007.



What’s more, manufacturing and construction—the two sectors that shrank the most (by a lot) during the recession—are both poised for progress.

Georgia, like other states in the Southeast, has proven to be well positioned to benefit from the changing landscape of global manufacturing. The state has seen several announcements of plans for new manufacturing facilities recently, drawing in manufacturers eager to seize on the Peach State’s relatively low energy costs and strong foundation of technical and logistical support. Though advanced manufacturing is very automated (read: doesn’t create as many jobs as in the past), the jobs that are created tend to pay relatively well, and the business investment and concentration of output stemming from these operations help to boost the local economy through other streams—building, transportation, maintenance, etc.

And construction isn’t just picking up on the commercial front; home building has also been on the upswing in the state. Permits for new residential construction were up more than 50 percent from the beginning of the year in May. And Atlanta Fed business contacts in the Southeast continue to report that home construction is picking up speed (see the chart).



All told, the state’s economy is still far from fully recovered, but the recent progress is certainly a welcome sign. So while the rain may be to blame for all the creepy-crawlers that are coming out, I, for one, am seeing some sun starting to peek through the clouds.

Photo of Laurel GraefeBy Laurel Graefe, Atlanta Fed REIN director


July 31, 2013

'Tis the Season to Seasonally Adjust

I have a long commute. (This is Atlanta—who doesn’t?) During my trek into the office last week, I heard an alarming account on the radio about Georgia’s unemployment rate. The report noted that the state’s unemployment rate had jumped to 9.3 percent in June—its highest level in nearly a year. Thankfully, I’m kind of a data geek and I reckoned that this figure was the nonseasonally adjusted number. The radio report didn’t mention that detail, but it’s a pretty important one. Here’s why.

Economists refrain from reading too much into month-to-month fluctuations in nonseasonally adjusted data. Rather, they tend to look at data that are seasonally adjusted. It’s not a trick or a way to spin the data. It is a statistically sound method that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from economic time series. This permits easier observation and analysis of cyclical, trend, and other nonseasonal movements in the data. By eliminating seasonal fluctuations, the series becomes smoother and it is easier to compare data from month to month.”

Labor market data are particularly susceptible to the influence of seasonal factors during the summer months. Think of the school year: New graduates entering the labor force, teachers off for the summer, school administrators and maintenance workers scaling back, etc. These workers return later in the summer when school reopens (something my kids are dreading, by the way). Other seasonal factors affect the data at other points in the year, such as retailers that step up hiring over the holidays, then return to pre-holiday staffing levels in January.

The chart below compares shows Georgia’s nonseasonally adjusted and seasonally adjusted unemployment rates from January 2011 through June 2013.



The nonseasonally adjusted data show much greater volatility, most notably during the summer months and over the holidays, than do the seasonally adjusted data. The spike in June 2013 is particularly notable.

The table below shows the difference in unemployment rates among states in the Southeast. All experienced much larger jumps in the nonseasonally adjusted measure in June than they did for the seasonally adjusted gauge.



Another way to account for seasonal factors is to look at the year-over-year percent change in the nonseasonally adjusted data, which we do in the chart below. Compared with last June, Georgia has fewer total unemployed—2.3 percent fewer, to be exact.



You’ve probably noticed a couple of things in the charts above. In the first chart, even the seasonally adjusted data show an increase in Georgia’s unemployment rate. In the second chart, while the year-over-year percent change in nonseasonally adjusted level of unemployed is negative, it is decidedly less negative that it has been. The message here is that regardless of which unemployment rate measurement you look at, they continue to reflect high levels of unemployment. But it’s important to recognize that seasonally adjusted data better reflect the underlying trends in labor market data.

Photo of Mike ChrisztBy Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed’s public affairs department


April 25, 2014

Regional Payroll Growth Rebounds in March

According to last week's regional and state employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Sixth District states added 41,500 payrolls on net in March, and the unemployment rate rose slightly from 6.4 percent to 6.5 percent. This month's release also came with an upward revision to February data that indicated the District added 40,500 jobs that month, about 6,100 payrolls higher than the original February estimate. The table gives a state-by-state breakdown of payroll revisions:

140425_tbl1

The new March data and revised February data appear to be another step in the right direction and perhaps give a somewhat stronger signal that the region's labor markets are gaining some traction after experiencing a few months of slower job growth earlier in the year, a pattern not uncommon over the last few years. Not surprisingly, we've seen a similar pattern in the national data as well (see the chart).


Payroll survey
Once again, Florida was the primary driver of Sixth District payroll growth in March, adding 22,900 payrolls, with Georgia seeing a nice rebound (up 14,600) from February's negative payroll growth (when it was down 5,800). The only state to lose jobs from February to March was Mississippi, which shed 1,400 payrolls. This was the fourth straight month of net payroll losses in that state.

Florida's net payroll gain was the largest one-month addition of any state in the nation, according to the BLS report, and was driven by the leisure and hospitality sector (up 9,500), health care (up 3,300), construction (up 1,900) and manufacturing (up 1,500), and Georgia's net payroll gain—the third-largest of any U.S. state—was driven by retail (up 3,800), the professional and business services sector (up 3,300), and health care (up 3,200).

As for other District states, Tennessee experienced a modest gain in payrolls in March, adding 4,200 jobs. With the largest revision of any Sixth District state, Tennessee's February net payrolls were revised up 3,400 payrolls for a total of 10,300 payrolls. Tennessee's payroll growth over the two-month period of February and March was primarily concentrated in professional and business services (up 6,800 payrolls). Louisiana and Alabama respectively added 900 and 300 jobs in March (see the chart).


Household survey
The aggregate unemployment rate for the Sixth District rose from 6.4 percent to 6.5 percent in March. Half of the six District states experienced an increase in their unemployment rates (Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi), and Louisiana's rate remained unchanged, Georgia's fell from 7.1 percent to 7.0 percent, and Tennessee's fell from 6.9 percent to 6.7 percent (see the table).

140425_tbl2

Want to find out how many jobs it would take to lower the unemployment rate in any of the 50 states? Check out the Atlanta Fed's State Jobs Calculator.

The BLS's next regional and state employment report, which will reflect April data, will be released May 16.

Photo of Teri GaffordBy Teri Gafford, a Regional Economic Information Network director in the Atlanta Fed's Birmingham Branch

 

and

Photo of Mark CarterMark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department


December 31, 2013

Georgia, Tennessee Lead Regional Payroll Growth in November

In November, 45 states had unemployment rate decreases, and the other five had no change, according to the monthly regional and state employment and unemployment summary from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). All the states in the Atlanta Fed’s district were among those 45 states that saw declines in their unemployment rates, with the unemployment rates in both Georgia and Tennessee falling 0.4 percentage points (to 7.7 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively). The Sixth District aggregate unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points to reach 7.0 percent, mirroring the trend and level of the national unemployment rate in November.

Georgia and Tennessee saw the largest growth in payrolls in the Sixth District in November as well, according to the same report. Georgia added 14,500 payrolls in November (see the table), with roughly a third of those new payrolls being in the construction industry (up 4,400 payrolls). Roughly another third of Georgia’s job gains were in transportation and warehousing industries (up 4,100 payrolls), and the other third of Georgia’s payroll growth in November was split between leisure and hospitality (up 2,900 payrolls) and financial activities (up 1,700 payrolls). Employment growth in real estate was notable last month (up 1,200 payrolls). Tennessee added 9,400 payrolls in November, with about 2,500 of those payrolls in the leisure and hospitality sector and another 1,900 in durable goods–manufacturing industries.

Payroll Change Data

Three Sixth District states have unemployment rates higher than the national level of unemployment (Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi), and three sit below (Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana; see the chart).

Unemployment Rates for Sixth District States, and Sixth District Aggregate

The BLS will release metropolitan area employment and unemployment data for November, which will provide an even more granular view of regional labor markets, on Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at 10 a.m.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s research department


August 5, 2013

Water, Water Everywhere: An Update on the Georgia Economy

Well, it appears that Georgia now has a monsoon season. And that season is apparently now. The National Weather Service estimates that in the first seven months of the year, 45.8 inches of rain fell in Atlanta, already putting us well ahead of 2012’s total rainfall. Only seven years on record have had more rain so early in the year. And rain brings with it some friends, some more welcome than others. Mosquitoes and snakes are purportedly starting to make their way out in greater numbers. But, even if the sun isn’t literally shining much on the Peach State, things are starting to look a lot brighter on the economic front.

Georgia has seen a solid bout of employment gains so far this year, as economic headwinds diminish and hiring becomes more widespread. Growth has been led by remarkable strength in business services employment, a broad sector that includes things like administrative services, temporary help, and technical and scientific services.

The employment expansion has become increasingly broad-based, as the chart below depicts. In this chart, each bubble represents a sector—with the circumference of the bubble reflecting the relative size of that sector’s employment in the state. Each bubble’s location in the graph shows that sector’s employment momentum: the farther a sector is to the right, the stronger the 12-month performance, the closer to the top, the stronger the three-month performance. So, for example, business services—which employs more Georgians than any other single sector—is in the upper right-hand quadrant, indicating that it has been expanding on a year-over-year basis and has also been picking up speed over the three months ending in June. In fact, most sectors have been drifting toward the expanding territory recently, with the notable exception of employment in the federal government, which is still markedly contracting (though the number of federal government employees in the state actually grew in June for the first time since September 2012).



To show the state’s employment progress over time, the “snail trail” chart below tracks the movement of the state’s employment momentum since before the recession. Each point represents one month of data, with the path starting at the green dot in January 2007 and tracking to the most recent data point in blue. After spending a good deal of time contracting and expanding modestly, the state’s employment is on roughly a 2 percent path on both a 12-month and three-month basis and back near where it was in January 2007.



What’s more, manufacturing and construction—the two sectors that shrank the most (by a lot) during the recession—are both poised for progress.

Georgia, like other states in the Southeast, has proven to be well positioned to benefit from the changing landscape of global manufacturing. The state has seen several announcements of plans for new manufacturing facilities recently, drawing in manufacturers eager to seize on the Peach State’s relatively low energy costs and strong foundation of technical and logistical support. Though advanced manufacturing is very automated (read: doesn’t create as many jobs as in the past), the jobs that are created tend to pay relatively well, and the business investment and concentration of output stemming from these operations help to boost the local economy through other streams—building, transportation, maintenance, etc.

And construction isn’t just picking up on the commercial front; home building has also been on the upswing in the state. Permits for new residential construction were up more than 50 percent from the beginning of the year in May. And Atlanta Fed business contacts in the Southeast continue to report that home construction is picking up speed (see the chart).



All told, the state’s economy is still far from fully recovered, but the recent progress is certainly a welcome sign. So while the rain may be to blame for all the creepy-crawlers that are coming out, I, for one, am seeing some sun starting to peek through the clouds.

Photo of Laurel GraefeBy Laurel Graefe, Atlanta Fed REIN director


July 31, 2013

'Tis the Season to Seasonally Adjust

I have a long commute. (This is Atlanta—who doesn’t?) During my trek into the office last week, I heard an alarming account on the radio about Georgia’s unemployment rate. The report noted that the state’s unemployment rate had jumped to 9.3 percent in June—its highest level in nearly a year. Thankfully, I’m kind of a data geek and I reckoned that this figure was the nonseasonally adjusted number. The radio report didn’t mention that detail, but it’s a pretty important one. Here’s why.

Economists refrain from reading too much into month-to-month fluctuations in nonseasonally adjusted data. Rather, they tend to look at data that are seasonally adjusted. It’s not a trick or a way to spin the data. It is a statistically sound method that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from economic time series. This permits easier observation and analysis of cyclical, trend, and other nonseasonal movements in the data. By eliminating seasonal fluctuations, the series becomes smoother and it is easier to compare data from month to month.”

Labor market data are particularly susceptible to the influence of seasonal factors during the summer months. Think of the school year: New graduates entering the labor force, teachers off for the summer, school administrators and maintenance workers scaling back, etc. These workers return later in the summer when school reopens (something my kids are dreading, by the way). Other seasonal factors affect the data at other points in the year, such as retailers that step up hiring over the holidays, then return to pre-holiday staffing levels in January.

The chart below compares shows Georgia’s nonseasonally adjusted and seasonally adjusted unemployment rates from January 2011 through June 2013.



The nonseasonally adjusted data show much greater volatility, most notably during the summer months and over the holidays, than do the seasonally adjusted data. The spike in June 2013 is particularly notable.

The table below shows the difference in unemployment rates among states in the Southeast. All experienced much larger jumps in the nonseasonally adjusted measure in June than they did for the seasonally adjusted gauge.



Another way to account for seasonal factors is to look at the year-over-year percent change in the nonseasonally adjusted data, which we do in the chart below. Compared with last June, Georgia has fewer total unemployed—2.3 percent fewer, to be exact.



You’ve probably noticed a couple of things in the charts above. In the first chart, even the seasonally adjusted data show an increase in Georgia’s unemployment rate. In the second chart, while the year-over-year percent change in nonseasonally adjusted level of unemployed is negative, it is decidedly less negative that it has been. The message here is that regardless of which unemployment rate measurement you look at, they continue to reflect high levels of unemployment. But it’s important to recognize that seasonally adjusted data better reflect the underlying trends in labor market data.

Photo of Mike ChrisztBy Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed’s public affairs department