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Exploring Georgia’s Industry Clusters: 5 That Higher Ed and Workforce Need to Know

August 16, 2017 by Emsi Burning Glass

What makes Georgia tick?

What sets the economy apart and where do we see specialization and differentiation? What sectors have showed the strongest job creation in recent years? Which careers should young people be thinking about? What should higher ed and workforce development consider to help shape and grow the economy?

These are the sorts of big, strategic questions we can (and should) consider with data.

To get some perspective, we ranked Georgia’s major industry clusters based on GRP, total jobs, job growth, compensation, regional competitiveness (shift share), and concentration (location quotient). Five clusters really stand out in terms of creating jobs.

  1. Textile Manufacturing – The most specialized cluster, particularly because of rug and carpet production
  2. Local Hospitality Establishments – The biggest job-producer of late, due in large part to the growth in restaurants
  3. Video Production and Distribution – The fastest-growing cluster
  4. Health Services – The most diverse set of jobs, from an education and training perspective
  5. Business Services – The highest-paying jobs, also showing greatest demand for workers with bachelor’s degrees

The first two sectors show the most specialization and job growth, but are not likely the best targets when it comes to high-wage careers.

Let’s take a closer look at each sector and discuss some sub-industries and occupations that deserve more attention.

(NOTE: Georgia, of course, has many other industry clusters (like utilities, financial services, and logistics) that could also warrant further study. But that’s another article.)  

Textile Manufacturing

First off, textile manufacturing is a major deal in Georgia. The industry is older even than Georgia itself and in 2016, textile manufacturing explained some 48,000 jobs throughout the state. Georgia is extremely specialized when it comes to two specific industries in this cluster: 1) carpet and rug manufacturing and 2) fiber, yarn, and thread production.

The 33,000 jobs that come from these two industries give Georgia a job concentration that is remarkable— 1,700% greater than what we’d see in a typical region. This means that per capita, Georgia has a huge number of these jobs.

That said, textiles is not the up-and-coming trade. Nationally, textiles have seen gradual decline (jobs are down by 3%) since the recession despite the economy being stronger. Even in Georgia, where the economy for these jobs is intensely competitive, job growth has been flat.

Though textiles is a cornerstone of the Georgia economy and brings in a lot of outside dollars, its jobs are gradually going away and generally will not be much sought after. We should look elsewhere for those high-growth, high-wage jobs that young people are hunting for.


When it comes to raw job growth, nothing touches hospitality. Nationally, restaurants are responsible for huge amounts of job growth in recent years. Emsi and The Atlantic recently covered this phenomenon. Since 2010, restaurants and bars in Georgia have shown similar growth, adding an impressive 70,000 jobs (nearly 26% growth).

Restaurants are a boom industry, but they are largely the result of job and income formation from other industries. And, like textile manufacturing, hospitality creates lots of lower-skilled, lower-wage jobs. These are the sorts of jobs that students hold while in high school and college, but are not typically the family-sustaining positions that workers pursue after graduation.

From that point of view, the next three sectors offer a lot more promise.

Video Production and Distribution

Georgia’s film cluster may not match California’s for size, but it is growing much faster. In fact, the video production and distribution cluster is the fastest-growing sector in the state–140% since 2010!

Georgia is consciously striving to build its reputation as a film state. The government is luring film makers with production tax cuts, plus the state actively seeks to provide the education necessary for local students to fill the rising number of jobs this industry has to offer. Not only are there informal workshops and standalone classes, there are also formal education opportunities at Georgia colleges.

Case in point: Savannah College of Art and Design, which in 2015 launched its Film and Television BFA at its Atlanta location (in addition to its Savannah campus) because of the industry’s boom. For more information on the specifics of SCAD’s Film and Television degrees and Animation programs, check out the college’s website. Georgia Film Academy is another school which specializes in providing on-set internships for their students.

When we searched for the fastest-growing jobs in Georgia since the recession ended, the list was dominated by an incredible array of jobs related to film and entertainment. Notice both the interesting diversity of jobs and the fact that many of them require a college education.

When we considered job postings for these occupations, we were not surprised to find a large discrepancy between job postings and hires. Creative jobs are typically filled by word of mouth and professional networks rather than formal job postings. If these jobs are mainly filled through networking, then student internships (like those offered by SCAD and GFA) are vital for filling the jobs. This is something to keep in mind if other higher ed institutions are thinking of adding programs.

One more note. The film industry doesn’t operate like the other big industry sectors. While it has added thousands of new jobs since the recession, the jobs in this creative industry will never be quite as big as what we see in other sectors. Further, these jobs can be transient; they come and go based on the number of film projects. These jobs do tend to be attractive to young folks, but they can also be brutal requiring crazy work hours and—once a project is over—you might be out of a job! So, very fun, but buyer beware…

The next two industry clusters aren’t adding as many jobs as restaurants, aren’t growing as fast as film, and aren’t as specialized as textiles, but they are likely the ones that most college students should pay attention to based on pay, demand, and overall opportunity. These are the sectors that higher education professionals really need to home in on.

Local Health Services

Health services is not surprising to find in a state’s top industries. It’s a growth sector everywhere.

Much of the demand in Georgia is being created by general and specialty hospitals and offices of physicians. Since 2010 these three industries have grown by 20%—adding some 40,000 new jobs. General hospitals is the largest, employing 143,000 people. Offices of physicians has the most locations with over 7,000 business locations across the state. Specialty hospitals has the most growth, adding 93% of its workforce since 2010.

Here is a list of health care jobs with strong growth. We see an interesting spread of both postsecondary/associate’s degrees and professional degrees. Lots of room for the community college and workforce sectors to engage.

Job postings for health care are also strong. Here are the top postings from May through July of this year.

There is a lot more to dig into, but this is a good starting point to sense the momentum of health care jobs. If you need help digging into this, we are more than happy to help!

Business Services

The final sector is perhaps the most important one to get right because it offers the most opportunity and is a bit more nuanced than the others. The growth of and demand for business services in Georgia is explained by a handful of specialized sub-industries:

  • Corporate management (think corporate headquarters of large, multi-national companies)
  • Engineering services (companies that manage large engineering and construction projects)
  • Computer systems design services (computer hardware and software companies)
  • Professional employer organizations (payroll and human resource management companies)
  • Consulting services (a wide range of companies focused on assisting other companies with everything from financial planning and budgeting to site-selection).

Since 2010 these industries have grown 33%, adding some 43,000 new, high-paying jobs to the Georgia economy. The 172,000 jobs being driven by these five industries are also stimulating a lot of occupational concentration and specialization that deserves closer attention.

Here is a look at some high-demand occupations within these industries. The jobs below added nearly 85,000 new jobs to the Georgia economy in seven years. Not too shabby! Notice that many typically require a bachelor’s degree, and that the wages are much higher than those for jobs in the film industry. Overall, these are jobs that the world of higher education should pay attention to.

One of the tricky elements when we are looking at business services sector is the incredible mass of job postings and the hundreds of different job titles—many of which are focused on very similar tasks. To these companies, highly specialized workers are important.

Here is an example list of postings and job titles that pop up when we look at our five sub-industries within the business services sector. From April to July 2017, there were some 26,700 job postings from these industries. Not surprisingly, many of the postings are in the counties containing Atlanta (Fulton and Gwinnett counties), Savannah (Chatham county) and August (Richmond county).

The top companies making these postings are Accenture, General Dynamics, Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte, Ingersoll Rand, North Highland Company, Jacobs Engineering, Aecom, and IBM.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Knowing what industry clusters are driving the economy is a must for today’s colleges and universities. It is so key because current and prospective students need to know that schools will provide them with the knowledge and skills the labor market needs. Further, each labor market tends to be a little different and shows its own specialization based on its unique industry mix.

In this case, Georgia has a diverse labor market (ranging from textiles to technology) that requires everything from manual to creative to professional skills. But when it comes to focusing on the jobs that will drive the economy, both education and workforce professionals should emphasize hospitals and physician’s offices, specialty business services, and—to a lesser extent—the film business.

So, what should you do with this information?

  1. See how it is playing out in your region. What are the major industries in your community and what jobs are they creating?
  2. Ask, how well is your region addressing these jobs? Are there ample education and training programs to meet these needs?
  3. Find out who is hiring. We always want to see people ground-truthing the data.
  4. Present and discuss your findings. It is critical that we share this insight with others in the community who can help build programs that matter.

If you need help or want to dig into the data, we’ll help! Contact [email protected].

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