What Record-Low Unemployment Really Is

Marietta, Georgia: Casting a Wider Net

Lanre Bakare, a 36-year-old Nigerian immigrant, was homeless and had little marketable work experience when he was accepted into a training program run by CobbWorks Inc., a federally funded nonprofit that matches workers and businesses in the construction, logistics, information technology, and health-care fields. Now he earns $40,000 annually as an analyst managing vendors and supplies at residential construction sites in Cobb County, Ga., and the surrounding area. Eleven months into the job, Bakare still marvels at his salaried status and is looking forward to that most dreaded of employment rituals: the performance review. “I’m really excited,” he says. “We’re going to talk about if they are going to increase my job, what are my possibilities.” CobbWorks has been around since 2000 but has recently expanded its outreach, training people with spotty work histories or criminal backgrounds who employers wouldn’t have considered a few years ago. Companies can no longer afford to be as picky. Unemployment in Cobb County, whose seat is Marietta, a city of 61,000 about 20 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta, was 3.7 percent in December. Weekly wages in the area rose more slowly than the national average through the first three quarters of 2017, the latest figures show. Inflation, meanwhile, has been moving up relatively quickly in the Atlanta area, climbing 3.3 percent in February compared with the nation’s 2.2 percent.

Marietta’s biggest employer, hospital network WellStar Health System, says it’s not feeling the labor crunch because of a decade-long campaign to ensure its pay and benefits are competitive. Attrition at WellStar is below the national average for the sector, according to spokesman Keith Bowermaster. The city’s No. 2 employer, Lockheed Martin Corp., is relatively insulated from local labor trends because the market for aerospace engineering work is national.

But some smaller businesses in the area are scrambling. That’s particularly true in the Cobb Galleria and adjacent Cumberland Mall areas, a few miles south on I-75, where office buildings, hotels, stores, restaurants, and a new ballpark for the Atlanta Braves compete for workers. “We’ve had fast-food restaurants offering bonuses,” says Roger Tutterow, an economist at Kennesaw State University. He’s also seen signs that labor shortages are constraining certain industries, noting that the number of building permits issued last year was half what it was during the boom that preceded the housing bust, even though demand for new homes is running high.

Several Marietta companies report they’re improving benefits to hang on to employees and attract new ones. InfoMart Inc., a 137-person operation that performs background screenings for companies, began paying 100 percent of its employees’ health insurance premiums this year, up from 75 percent. It also rehabbed its office space to make it more “collaborative-looking,” says Senior Vice President Tim Gordon, who’s especially keen to attract millennials. InfoMart also allows its tech employees to work from home four out of five days a week.

All this sounds good but where are the wages?? The average worker with a family cannot live off less than $15/hr in today’s economy. What’s lost in this article and others concerning employment is in Marietta, Ga the median cost for a small home is $225,000. So only a few of these employers can pay a living wage where employees can work and live in Marietta, Ga

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