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BLS offers snapshot of Rome-Floyd economy; Average weekly wage way below national average

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics within the federal Department of Labor released a snapshot of economic conditions within selected metropolitan areas across the country last week.

The BLS report included year-end data in most of the statistical sets, however the wages report was dated for the second quarter of the year and shows the average weekly wage for FloydCounty residents was more than 20 percent below the national average. The U.S. average weekly wage for the second quarter was $1,020, while the average weekly pay for Rome and FloydCounty residents was $785.

The year-end report shows 41,500 non-farm jobs in Rome and Floyd County. Education and health services jobs totaled 10,500; trade, transportation and utilities employment was listed at 7,700; manufacturing jobs numbered 6,300 while government related (federal, state and local), 5,800.

When you compare those numbers to December of the previous year, total non-farm jobs were up 0.5 percent, health care and education jobs up 1 percent, manufacturing and government were unchanged, while trade, transportation and utilities were down 4.9 percent.

Rome Floyd Chamber Director of Business and Industry Services Ken Wright said the adjustment to a world that is trending more and more toward e-commerce has been difficult for a lot of retailers. Wright said one of the issues that local leaders will discuss with lawmakers in Washington later this month will be the federal Marketplace Fairness Act which, among other things, could lead to the collection of local sales taxes on products sold over the internet. He said that would hopefully level the playing field somewhat.

"I know we've had some hit in the retail industry. The Kmart still has not been replaced," Wright said

"We used to be a regional draw for retail, but we're not anymore," said Bruce Jones, professor of economics at Georgia Highlands College. "I can remember a time when I went out to the mall and I'd look at the tags of the cars and a lot of people from Cartersville and Bartow County used to shop here and a lot of people from Alabama counties shopped here."

The wage report also compared average hourly wages across a spectrum of jobs in the community. In the cross-section of jobs that were listed in the report, general and operations managers were the best paid at $50.74 an hour. The report listed 650 employees in that category. Accountants and auditors, numbering 170 in Rome and Floyd County, were No. 2 at $31.13 an hour. Registered nurses, some 1,430 of them locally, were a close third at $29.80. Rounding out the top five were heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers, some 350 in Rome and Floyd County, at $16.98, and customer service representatives, 540 of them listed in the survey, at $17.30 an hour.

Jones said he suspects those well-compensated customer service workers were either in call centers, or people who used to be retail clerks that were promoted with seniority and held on to jobs as retailers downsized in general.

All were below the national average except, for reasons not explained, customer service reps who made nearly a dollar more an hour more than the national average.

The bottom five on the list were retail sales clerks at $12.31 an hour, followed by receptionists and information clerks at $12.15, stock clerks at $10.38, waiters and waitresses at $8.85 and fast food workers at $8.65 an hour.

The $8.65 an hour is less than $2 an hour below the $10.50 an hour that the Rome Floyd Chamber has used as a requirement to get financial incentives for a new facility locally, or expansion of an existing facility. Wright said the need to perhaps increase that figure is something that economic development leaders are already looking at.

"They did just increase that at the state level, for a state incentive it's $12 an hour, so they bumped it up," Wright said.

The BLS report also shows that Rome ended 2017 with a December unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, well under the 5.6 percent rate at the end of 2016.