That’s the assessment of Georgia labor commissioner Mark Butler during his address on the state’s labor trends to the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management on Wednesday at Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center.
“I haven’t felt this good about the Georgia economy in a whole year,” Butler said. “The unemployment rate is much less than it was a year ago. We’ve seen a couple of areas start hiring.”
In December, there were job gains in construction in the state for the first time since 2003. That month, there were also job gains in manufacturing for the first time since 2005, Butler said.
“Does that mean we’re out of the woods yet? No, not by a long shot,” Butler said. “We have a lot of obstacles in our way.”
In one year, Georgia lost 85,000 construction jobs and 80,000 manufacturing jobs. The retail trade and financial services sectors also took big hits because they’re connected to the construction industry. The real estate market was driving the Georgia economy, he said.
To be more efficient, the department is making necessary IT changes to produce better, quicker, more accurate systems. For instance, the department is converting to debit card or direct deposit systems.
The labor department is also moving rapidly toward online job search and job posting systems, where Georgia employers will be able to post jobs whenever they want.
“I want to start requiring all people on unemployment to have to post your resume online on our system. I want to give the businesses of Georgia the ability to search those resumes,” Butler said.
In addition, the department is also making changes to the appeals process.
“One of the things we discovered, the department ramped up employees at a lot faster rate than they were able to train. The appeals process has to be fair and work better,” Butler said.
Changes will include making part of the system automated. The department is also altering the rule on heresay evidence, no longer requiring people to come to the office in person, but instead allowing them to substitute with affidavits.
Butler would also like to require random drug testing for those receiving unemployment insurance, but there are restrictions with federal law, he said.