Georgia has a lot of available jobs but not enough people in the workforce to fill them, the state’s labor commissioner told Gwinnett business leaders Wednesday.

Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler and Georgia Department of Economic Development Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Ben Hames delivered a workforce update at the Gwinnett Chamber’s monthly On Topic series. Early in the presentation, Butler began to discuss a workforce shortage in Georgia.

“The number of people in the workforce has actually shrunk over the last 12 months,” Butler said. “As a matter of fact, we’ve seen a lot of cases where we’ve seen fewer people employed and fewer people in the workforce, so the unemployment rate is going down, but the number of jobs is going up.”

Georgia had a preliminary unemployment rate of 3.9% in March, according to the most recently available data from the Department. The data also shows, however, that the number of people in the civilian labor force shrank from 5.123 million people in February to 5.119 million in March.

Gwinnett County had a labor force of 488,136 people in March, which is down from 488,708 in February and 489,179 in March 2018. Gwinnett has an unemployment rate of 3.3%, and yet Butler said there are plenty of jobs currently available in the county.

“We have over 10,000 active job postings in Gwinnett County alone that are posted online,” he said.

The Department of Labor posts data for some larger cities in the state, including a few in Gwinnett. The data shows the labor force for the Gwinnett cities that are listed are down from a year ago, even though they showed some stagnation in the early part of this year.

In Lawrenceville, for example, the labor force shrank from 14,525 in February to 14,483 in March. Both figures are down from March 2018, when the city had a labor force of 14,558 people. Meanwhile, Duluth’s labor force increased from 16,134 in February to 16,147 in March, but it is still down from 16,186 in March 2018.

Peachtree Corners had 24,956 people in it labor force in March, compared to 24,964 people in February and 25,010 people in March 2018.

Having enough qualified employees to fill available jobs a deep impact for the state, particularly when it comes to attracting big employers for major economic development projects.

“Right now, companies are more concerned about ‘Do you have the talent that we need?’ more than incentives,” Butler said. “They do like incentives, but they are more worried about having the talent.”

Hames said there also needs to be proof that a future talent pool will exist in Georgia as well, which is where Georgia’s universities, state colleges and technical colleges come into play. Employers need a talent pipeline as well as a strong current talent pool, he said.

Age of the workforce is also a factor.

“Most of the (people) that we really want to come to Georgia, they are focused on being successful for 20, 50, 100 years,” Hames said. “We’re really only going to win if companies that we attract are successful for 20, 50, 100 years, so we should be thinking longer term. You should go somewhere that is a younger state.”

Butler said there are two programs that the Department of Labor is using to make it easier for employers to find qualified workers in Georgia.

One is a customized recruitment program that works with employers to find job seekers who have the skills that the employer is looking for. The other is a soft skills program that helps train job seekers to avoid problems during their searches, ranging from wearing pajamas to fill out a job application or an interview to having trouble working with a team.

“After we’ve offered all of these incentives (to businesses), we can’t have them come here and not find anybody to work, because if they keep doing that, they’re going to tell the next person, ‘Don’t come to Georgia. There’s nobody here,’” Butler said.

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta. I eventually wandered away from home and attended the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg, Miss., where I first tried my hand at majoring in film for a couple of years. And then political sc