The annual State of Working Georgia examines the deteriorating status of working Georgians 20 months into the recession, outlining solutions that position Georgia to catch up. The recession pummeled Georgia and, as the 2009 edition points out, we have more catching up to do than most states.
§ Georgia lost 7.6 percent of jobs in this recession, the 5th highest of all states. Compared to other recent recessions, the current prolonged job loss is unparalleled. Georgia has less jobs today than in 2001.
§ The working age population of Georgia grew by 19 percent between January 2001 and September 2009, making Georgia a leader in population growth among states, yet with a startling job-population mismatch this decade.
§ Unemployment doubled since the beginning of the recession. Roughly 480,000 Georgia workers (10.1 percent) were unemployed. Additional workers have stopped looking for work or taken part-time jobs, making almost 1 in 6 workers underemployed.
"The task facing Georgia leaders today is to protect and preserve the quality of life of Georgians as they weather the economic downturn," said Sarah Beth Gehl, the report's author and the Institute's deputy director."
In addition to overall workforce trends, the analysis documents income, poverty, health insurance coverage, and disparities among demographics. For example:
§ African-American workers experienced 15.6 percent unemployment in the third quarter of this year, twice the level of unemployment among white workers (7.7 percent).
§ Low-income workers are much less likely to receive employer-sponsored health coverage than higher-wage workers: Twenty-seven percent of low-income, non-elderly adults had employer-sponsored coverage in 2007-2008 compared to 63 percent of all non-elderly adult Georgians.
§ In 2008, half of Hispanic part-time workers wanted full-time employment, but could only locate part-time work.
§ Education levels bookend the earnings spectrum.
"We recommend that Georgia policymakers invest more heavily in raising adult education levels and strengthening supports for low-wage workers," said Gehl, "rather than pushing tax cut legislation that further reduces Georgia's ability to meet people's needs today and make sure our economy is positioned for when prosperity returns."
There is a silver lining to the dismal workforce findings. Georgia can climb itself out of the mire: there are many public policies available to boost the situation of low-income workers and increase the education levels of Georgia workers hardest hit.
To review the analysis and solutions, read State of Working Georgia 2009.
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