According to just-released figures from the Georgia Department of Labor, the state unemployment rate for March fell to 5.1 percent, the lowest it’s been since December 2007. So joblessness is right about where it was before the bottom fell out.
There are, of course, still troublesome numbers among the encouraging ones — the most obvious and troublesome one here, of course, being that unemployment in Columbus has remained stubbornly high. And Georgia’s jobless rate, for all the steady improvement, is still higher than the 4.5 percent national rate, with some 257,000 people looking for work.
But they are looking. That’s one of the positive indicators (thought it doesn’t feel that way to frustrated job seekers). As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, in the 12 months before the latest report the Georgia job market grew by more than 100,000 people, even as the state economy was adding more than 100,000 jobs.
That’s one of the “spin cycles” of unemployment statistics: When joblessness is reported down during economic hard times, it’s often attributed to people who have simply given up trying to find work, and therefore are not officially classified as unemployed.
In this case, the drop in unemployment is actually more statistically significant than it appears, because the opposite dynamic is at work. And, according to state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, job layoffs were 11 percent below what they were during the same 30-day period last year.
In any case, it’s a happy departure from the double-digit unemployment misery of 2008-09 — a figure that, as the AJC noted, did not include the out-of-work adults who had simply given up trying.
Georgia has seen nearly seven years of steady job growth, during which time there has been an increase of more than 600,000 jobs.
Getting back to pre-recession employment rates is economic relief, but hardly an economic boom. Still, the trend lines are moving in the right direction. They need to move somewhat faster in our region.
They bilk, we pay
Health care fraud, according to Georgia Health News, exacts a national toll of at least $68 billion a year, and some credible estimates are more than three times that. Most of the time, GHN reports, it takes the form of bogus “clinics” using stolen health data to make insurance claims.
Fraud isn’t of course the only culprit in outrageous health care costs. But it might be one we can get more of a handle on thanks to a Georgia Tech graduate’s startup firm called FraudScope, with health IT created at the school.
“We’re developing technology that will detect fraud before the payment,” said Musheer Ahmed. “Health care data are 10 times more valuable than financial data on the black market. Health care data can be abused for a longer time.”
GHN cites a 2015 Washington Post report that health data on more than 120 million people had been compromised just since 2009.
Think of what technology that stops even some of that could be worth.