Cities comprise only 9.2% of the land area in Georgia, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but they provide 68.9% of all jobs in the state. Georgia’s jobs are further concentrated in the 14 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs): Atlanta and the 13 Hub Cities were home to 78% of Georgia’s jobs in 2017, with Atlanta’s share at 56%, or more than half of the state total.
Data from the same year also shows the uneven distribution of jobs by industry across the state. While wholesale retail trade provides the highest number of jobs in Georgia (a trend driven primarily by the Atlanta region), healthcare and social services is the leading category in the Hub Cities, and manufacturing is at the top of the list for rural Georgia.
Top Five Job Rankings by Industry and Location
Cities tend to concentrate the assets that support the functions of an advanced economy, a process that economists describe as “agglomeration.” More specifically, urban agglomeration and density provide a larger, more specialized labor force, capital, and services while enabling knowledge spillovers that generate new ideas.
The causal mechanisms of agglomeration economies can be described in three categories:
- Sharing: Sharing economies include sharing of infrastructure, facilities, suppliers and workers (labor pooling).
- Matching: Large and diversified labor and supplier markets facilitate better matches between employers and employees, or between firms and intermediate suppliers.
- Learning: Jane Jacobs in the early 1960s was among the first to link the serendipity of random encounters to innovation and economic productivity gains. More recent research also suggests that knowledge exchange, both formal (think of GMA’s Annual Convention) and informal (the meeting at the water cooler), is critical to innovation in rapidly changing industries such as high tech or finance.
The most frequently cited example of an agglomeration economy is Silicon Valley, but Georgia has a few of its own: the carpet industry in Dalton, car manufacturing in West Point and the film industry in various locations come to mind. The bottom line is the same across the state: cities are unique in their ability to bring people together to live, work and play – and not always in that order.
This article was originally featured in the July/August 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities Magazine.