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Georgia labor commissioner talks employment numbers
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Then-candidate Mark Butler talked with members of the Forsyth County Republican party in 2010 about his priorities for the state labor commissioner's office and the importance of voting Republican. - photo by Jennifer Sami

This week, members of Forsyth County’s business community heard an update from the state’s top labor official.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler spoke at a breakfast for the Forsyth-County Chamber of Commerce’s Manufacturing Society of Forsyth County. Butler said Georgia’s current workforce numbers are historic.

“I think pretty much since the first part of ’17, all through last year, all we’ve done since then is set records in Georgia,” Butler said. “We have the largest workforce we’ve ever had and the most people employed we’ve ever had. We’ve had the most jobs we’ve ever had. We also had the most people living here we’ve ever had.”

Butler said while the numbers are looking good, there are still some challenges in the state. He pointed out that Forsyth County had added some 850 people in the last year to the workforce but created 2,600 jobs.

“So, your job-creating is outpacing your workers,” Butler said. “The state numbers are even worse.”

While good for workers, Butler said so many jobs combined with low unemployment could slow the economy and make the state a less desirable place for employers, who have concerns they can’t fill all jobs.

“It’s not because we forgot how to create jobs and how to do them,” Butler said. “Things are going to get stalled out because we don’t have workers.”

Butler also discussed the need for soft skills, or the ability to work effectively with others, to help job seekers get hired, using an example of job seekers showing up for interviews underdressed and underprepared.

“Two years ago, we polled a little bit less than 1,000 employers from around the state, and what we got out of them was basically the soft skills, that skill set, was the No. 1 thing that they were looking for right now,” he said. “They had kind of given up on finding someone that was exactly what they needed but said, ‘Look, you bring me somebody that’s got good customer service skills, knows how to work well with others, can dress appropriately, show up on time, show up, trainable, work ethic … You bring me that person, and I’ll train them.”

Unlike some other states, Georgia is not able to give cash to recruit companies to the state, but Butler said customized recruitment for companies was a bigger selling point.

“They are more interested in getting the people than the cash,” he said. “That’s pretty exciting.”