Plenty of local businesses have raised their wages but are still having difficulty attracting workers. Which means, of course, they haven’t raised their wages enough.
I’m sure the “raise your wages even more” assessment exasperates business owners into a froth, especially when offered unsolicited by a pointy-headed academic who has never had to worry about covering labor and a zillion other costs to make a living.
I get that. The labor situation for employers in Glynn is indeed difficult, and the difficulty runs much deeper than supplemental unemployment compensation, shuttered day care facilities and other consequences of the pandemic.
We have some major league long-run economics going on here. Consider: Since 2005, Glynn’s population has increased by 19 percent, from 72,589 to 86,002. Total personal income in Glynn, adjusted for inflation, has increased by 28 percent, from $2.926 billion to $3.74 billion.
In a word, Glynn’s population and economy have grown significantly since 2005. Our labor force, however, hasn’t grown at all.
Here are the numbers. Glynn’s labor force is currently 39,617. In 2005, it was 39,156. Allow for standard estimation error, and there’s no difference.
Shifting business conditions and a variety of other factors cause a labor force to fluctuate in size from year to year. Since 2005, our local labor force has ranged between its all-time high of 41,141 in 2008 and 37,028 in 2014.
Year-to-year labor force fluctuations of the magnitude we’ve seen in Glynn since 2005 would be ho-hum if our population had held steady around its 2005 count of 72,589. Our issue is not the year-to-year fluctuations.
Our issue is 16 years in the making: 19 percent population growth, 28 percent real personal income growth and no change in the size of the labor force.
Glynn does draw workers from other counties, especially Brantley and McIntosh. (Which is why, in case you’ve wondered, the U.S. Census Bureau has Brantley, Glynn and McIntosh designated as the Brunswick Metropolitan Statistical Area or MSA, for short.)
Glynn employers certainly appreciate the help, but our MSA shows a very similar labor force pattern.
In 2005, the labor force of the Brunswick MSA was 51,817. Since 2005, it has fluctuated between 54,417 in 2008 and 49,766 in 2014. It currently stands at 53,135 — a puny change considering the 22 percent jump in the MSA’s population since 2005.
Strong long-run population growth, solid long-run economic growth, zero long-run labor force growth. That’s our local labor situation. Throw the long-run, ever-rising numbers of tourists into the mix and it’s no wonder local businesses are scrambling for workers.
What’s behind this odd long-run labor force pattern?
Have a look at the change in Glynn’s working age population by age group from 2010 to 2019, the most recent year for which county age group estimates are available. (Age grouping inconsistencies in census county population estimates require starting with 2010 rather than 2005.)
Between 2010 and 2019, Glynn’s working age population — that is, everyone 16 years old or older — increased by 7,034. The population of 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 399. The population of 20- to 54-year-olds increased by 70. The population of 55- to 64-year-olds increased by 1,055. The population of 65-year-olds and older increased by 5,510.
The labor force participation rate for 20- to 54-year-olds is 80 percent. The labor force participation rate for 65-year-olds and older is 20 percent.
Glynn is attracting retirees. Younger workers, not so much.