2023 State of Working Georgia: Short-Lived Recovery Reflects Long-Term Barriers

Ongoing reliance on state-level, race-neutral job market measures provide an incomplete picture of the health of Georgia’s workforce. On the surface, Georgia has maintained a robust job market with a low overall unemployment rate of 3.3%. This low unemployment rate is partially attributed to a hiring pace that has stayed ahead of layoffs despite federal actions to slow the economy as part of efforts to fight rapid inflation. Beneath that surface, however, disaggregated data shows that an outsized share of Black, Brown and other Georgians with low incomes were harmed by inflation-fighting efforts. After reaching landmark employment levels in mid-2022, Black workers experienced 60% more unemployment spells than white workers. Since summer 2023, among workers in their prime working ages of 25 to 54, Black and Hispanic workers have experienced eroding employment levels, while white workers have continued to see an uptick in employment, surpassing their pre-pandemic peak. Furthermore, Georgia’s economic growth has not meaningfully lifted those earning low incomes, who saw some of the largest pay growth (21%) from 2019 to 2022 but whose buying power only rose by 4% over the same period due to inflation. To address these gaps, Georgia lawmakers must not only view the state’s job market through a racial equity lens but utilize this data as part of a worker-centered change of course to address the many barriers that continue to leave workers behind.