Labor Day finds the Augusta work environment frustrating but improving

Good signs in Burke, Columbia County numbers

Monday, Sept. 6, 2010 7:57 AM
Last updated 4:55 PM
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ATLANTA -- Labor Day has traditionally meant more about the end of summer and the start of football games and school for Augusta-area workers rather than a period of reflection on their job prospects. But the lingering effects of the most recent recession have changed everything.
"The Great Recession is reaping a bitter harvest of jobs, hopes, and dreams," wrote Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond in a recent column. "Americans fortunate enough to be gainfully employed are haunted by fear and anxiety, which are the debilitating byproducts of widespread economic uncertainty."
The weekend began with Friday's release of the national unemployment rate, which rose slightly to 9.6 percent. Officials haven't released the state and local figures for August.
What the state Department of Labor has made public is a snapshot of the metro Augusta work environment.
For example, Burke County has the 10th-highest wages of the state's 159 counties. And Columbia County has the eighth-highest family income and fifth-best unemployment rate.
When you include Richmond County, the Georgia side of the metro area has some struggles. The metro average annual wage of $39,700 is below the $45,500 state average and well below the $49,000 national number.
Its July unemployment rate rose slightly to 9.3 percent due to new layoffs in the machinery-manufacturing sector as the whole area lost 1,300 jobs, according to Mark Watson, the assistant director of work-force analysis at the state department. Local government shed 1,000 of them.
Since the beginning of the year, Electrolux's 47 layoffs and FPL Foods' 185 accounted for the biggest single sources of job losses. At the same time, Convergent ERS announced 392 new jobs coming.
"When we look at what our job-posting numbers are, what our recruitment numbers are, they are about 15 percent less than last year," said Julie Goley, the director of the career center at Augusta State University.
Fall is normally when employers begin interviewing May graduates for positions, and so far the health, accounting, finance and information-technology sectors are most active, while future grads looking to teach or work in factories aren't getting much attention.
Among the blue-collar ranks, factories are beginning to stick a toe or two into the water, reports John Culpepper, the owner of Express Employment Professionals in Athens.
Companies hire temporary workers such as those Express supplies because nervous managers have fewer qualms about letting them go in case demand isn't as strong as hoped. The call for temp workers has risen 50 percent over last year, Culpepper said.
"The one thing we have the biggest problem with is getting people off of unemployment because (Congress) extended unemployment (benefits)," he said. "If it's not a permanent position, they say 'I'll just stay in the house.' There are jobs out there. I'm very optimistic about the future."
Starting pay, though, is generally lower. Someone laid off at $16 per hour will have to settle for a new job at $9, Culpepper warned.
Thurmond blames executives' distrust of Washington politicians with their decision to hold on to cash rather than investing it in factories or new hires. But some large employers are spending their cash.
Their numbers aren't up to the pre-recession level of 2006 when they announced 25,000 new jobs through $5.8 billion in capital. Still, for the 12 months ending in June, large companies announced 19,000 new Georgia jobs and an investment of $3.7 billion, less than the peak but still an increase of 11 percent in hiring and a healthy 47 percent boost in capital in one year.
Even better news is that the number on companies considering sites in Georgia has grown 140 percent since 2006, a pipeline of sorts for new jobs that typically takes 18 months to travel from end to end.
"We are in a very strong pipeline," said Heidi Green, the Georgia commissioner of economic development.
Nationally, too, companies are hiring again, just not fast enough to overcome the end of census workers' jobs and other government layoffs.
"We have now added private sector jobs for eight straight months, totaling 763,000 private sector jobs since the beginning of the year," said U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. "While we need to pick up the pace of recovery, erase the job losses and get Americans back to work, this encouraging growth shows that we are headed in the right direction."

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corgimom
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corgimom 09/06/10 - 10:06 am
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The poverty rate in RC will

The poverty rate in RC will rise and no county can prosper with high poverty rates. Commissioners, are you readling this? What are your plans to combat this?

It is so sad to watch the decay of Richmond County. RC doesn't need any more bars and restaurants on Broad St or a new stadium- it needs companies to come in and bring jobs.

gargoyle
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gargoyle 09/06/10 - 11:39 am
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Yes unemployment rates are

Yes unemployment rates are high. Yes they are going to stay high for quite a while more. Yes more people are living below the poverty line. And yes they are going to stay below that line for quite a while more. Now the proper question is why.

Unemployment is up because people are always the first item cut when business encounters a downturn. This is because employees are one of the largest expenses to an employer. It is also one of the few expenses that they can change. Afterall my business is having troubles, but I cannot change my rent or utility bill, but I can get rid of some employees. And there are always people looking for jobs. Now that all the papers are telling me that business has improved, well not that it has actually made a difference onto my bottom line, I can think about hiring 1 or 2 employees. BUT I also need to rebuild my safety net before I can feel comfortable that I can keep the rehired employees employed. So employees are going to be the very last thing I will add to my expenses, but when I do then I will feel the recession is over.

Now to address the poverty level in Augusta Richmond County. I know the 'all-knowing' folks at the Fed say there is no inflation, but groceries cost more, rent has gone up, utilities have sky-rocketed. So this noninflation is taking much much more of my check than the same things cost even one year ago. Therefore I have less money to spend in the community- at the bars and restaurants downtown. Actually it is a good sign that the economy is getting better if the downtown bars and restaurants are doing well; it means that I have extra money to spend. And to address the basic wages that are now below the poverty level, well Temp Agencies such as the Athens firm listed in the article do not pay well, nor do they often include basic benefits like insurance, and the jobs are for short time periods- less than 3 months. This situation results in pay below the poverty level.

Sweet son
11513
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Sweet son 09/06/10 - 11:49 am
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Burke county figures are

Burke county figures are probably not realistic because of government employees (farmers) and Plant Vogtle employeees who might just as well be government employees.

dwb619
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dwb619 09/06/10 - 03:13 pm
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Sweet, I cannot understand

Sweet, I cannot understand your cheap shot at the Vogtle employes. All of them pay FICA, state, and federal income tax. All of them have their own medical insurance and pension plans. Also, Plant Vogtle has paid a HUGE amount into the Burke County treasury over the last 23 years that Units 1 and 2 have been in operation. I believe that the revenue from Plant Vogtle also made it possible to build the Burke County High School, and re-build the Burke County Courthouse.
May I suggest that you go out there and spend 40hours in the hell-hole that that job-site is, before you cast such snide snippets again.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 09/06/10 - 04:21 pm
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dwb, I was just trying to say

dwb, I was just trying to say that Vogtle employees as well as farmers cause Burke county to have the 10th highest incomes of the 159 counties. I glad that your salary as well as the farmers salaries make the household incomes as high as they are. Maybe I was quick to include you with the farmers as government workers. They receive govt monies to plant or not plant crops. Sorry. I have worked in the circumstances that you describe (Boral Bricks and DSM Chemicals) and it ain't pretty, especially in the heat that we have endured this summer. No offense intended.

dwb619
103858
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dwb619 09/06/10 - 04:28 pm
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I don't work there.

I don't work there.

OhWell
326
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OhWell 09/06/10 - 04:29 pm
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Sweet Son until you have

Sweet Son until you have invested everything you own to operate a farm do not knock the salaries some of them make. I have been a daughter, wife and mother of a farmer and those were some of the hards years I have ever spent both mentally and physically. Oh but the rewards were great, we got to see our family a lot because the work went on 24 7 and we were expected to help. Farming is not just riding around in a pickup truck, you have many decisions and risk to take to get your profits in.

Sweet son
11513
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Sweet son 09/06/10 - 04:38 pm
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Got popped twice!!! Farming

Got popped twice!!! Farming is also a tough job and a form of gambiling and praying at the same time. I am not resentful of anything a farmer makes or does. It takes a lot of guts and fortitude to farm year after year. OhWell, I truly hope that all your labors have been and will be sucessful in the coming years. I know this not/dry summer has taxed all of the strength that you have. Good luck at harvest time. Sorry I offended you.

OhWell
326
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OhWell 09/06/10 - 04:50 pm
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It is OK sweet son, Burke

It is OK sweet son, Burke county has been blessed with good leadership both as administrators and elected officials also.

countyman
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countyman 09/06/10 - 05:29 pm
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The poverty rate in Richmond

The poverty rate in Richmond County is not rising. The per capita, median income, etc are up in RC. The sales tax revenue is higher than last year(and higher than the budgeted revenue projects)...
http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2010-09-02/city-tax-collections...

The Richmond County tax digest grew by $51.3 million this year. The city unanimously voted to rolled back taxes three times in two weeks. Augusta was featured in a Georgia Public Brodcasting article because we rolled back taxes in a recession.
http://www.gpb.org/news/2010/07/22/augusta-rolls-back-property-taxes?utm...
http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2010-07-27/richmond-schools-rol...
http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2010-08-09/augusta-rolls-back-m...

As for new jobs in Richmond County. Augusta gained(4,700)jobs from July 2009 to July 2010. The most of any metro in the entire state of GA. Augusta added more jobs than the 5 million metro Atlanta. ADP is hiring 400 more(they have 600 employees)and they're building a second facility next to the current building. BottleTek is bringing 100 jobs and a $100 million facility to South Augusta in 2011. ERS 400 jobs, T-Mobile(400 employees) and will hire 350. There's several other jobs coming to Augusta.

I thought RC was decaying lol???

Sweet son
11513
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Sweet son 09/06/10 - 05:18 pm
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OhWell, if the truth be

OhWell, if the truth be known, my father was born in a house near Girard but he never farmed. If you are in a longtime family farming situation in Burke county you would have known his brother who started farming after WWII an did so until his death about three years ago.

Sweet son
11513
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Sweet son 09/06/10 - 05:19 pm
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Also, my father and I both

Also, my father and I both ended up being retired "government" workers.

countyman
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countyman 09/06/10 - 05:32 pm
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Corgimom, I know you're not

Corgimom, I know you're not going to like this news... Charlotte's 11.2% unemployment rate is above the NC(9.8%) and the national average (9.7%)..

While Augusta's unemployment rate is 9.3%... Which is lower than both the GA(9.9)and the national average(9.7%)

In the 2010 August issue of GA Trend Magazine... The magazine refer to Augusta/Richmond county as a ''Prosperous Enclave''

''New industry, new investment''
http://www.georgiatrend.com/our-state/08_10_augusta.shtml

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 09/06/10 - 11:11 pm
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The fact that economics is no

The fact that economics is no longer a required subject in high school is part of the "dumbing down of America" program that has been so successful. It also explains some of the previous posts.

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