Savannah metro unemployment falls to 8.4% in November, but the devil is in the details

From the Georgia Dept. of Labor this morning:

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced today that the preliminary unemployment rate in metro Savannah decreased to 8.4 percent in November, down six-tenths of a percentage point from 9.0 percent in October. The jobless rate in metro Savannah in November a year ago was also 9.0 percent. [Note: these numbers are not seasonally adjusted.]

The rate declined because the number of jobs increased by 300. Most of the growth was in the private service-related industries, such as retail trade and education and health care.

Metro Athens had the lowest area rate at 6.9 percent, while metro Dalton had the highest at 11.8 percent.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate had its largest one-month decline since 1977, falling to 9.9 percent from 10.2 percent in October. The jobless rate was 10.4 percent in November a year ago.

The state rate dropped because of an increase of 22,400 jobs. In addition to retail trade, growth also came in financial and business services and education and health care.

So that’s another lame analysis of its own data from the Dept. of Labor. Savannah metro unemployment dropped by .6% because a measly 300 jobs were added?


You can go here to look at some of the hard data. As I noted previously, there are two different monthly surveys of employment data. One is a survey of establishments that actually have employees. That survey shows Georgia and Savannah with fewer jobs than a year ago. The unemployment rate data comes from a survey of households, and is subject to a wide range of variables not covered by the establishment survey.

According to the data released this morning, the Savannah metro area in November had a civilian labor force of 175,728, up from 174,507 a year ago. The Savannah metro area population has almost certainly increased by at least 1% in the last year, but the labor force has increased at a much slower rate. In the same time 2,156 more residents report being employed (160,952 compared to 158,796 a year ago).

As a point of comparison, there were 172,091 employed persons in Nov. 2007, with a labor force of 178,738.

In other words, if we had the same number of Savannah metro residents working or trying to find work as we had in 2007, the unemployment rate would be 9.95%.

So let’s not get too excited by this monthly decline. Here’s what it looks like in the DOL’s bar graph:

By the way, the official unemployment rate for November in the city of Savannah is 9.8%, down from 10.6% a month ago (the labor force shrank by 100 while about 300 more people reported having jobs). I’ll try to look more closely at the data for the city of Savannah — especially the size of the labor force — in a future post.