Stress cracks in the labor market

Stress cracks in the labor market

Stress cracks in the labor market

Key Points

  • There are more jobs available in America than ever before. 
  • There are more people NOT working in America than ever before.
  • At Georgia Center for Opportunity, we have created a two-step process to create meaningful, self-supportive work. 

“Never has work been so readily available in modern America; never have so many been uninterested in taking it.”

That’s a key point made by social scientist Nicholas Eberstadt in a new column for The Wall Street Journal. Eberstadt points out that even in an environment with historically low unemployment, the truth is that millions of workers are missing from the labor force. 

“We now face an unprecedented peacetime labor shortage, with employers practically begging for workers, while vast numbers of grown men and women sit on the sidelines of the economy—even though job applicants have more bargaining power in the ‘Great Resignation’ than at any time in recent history,” he writes.

Eberstadt points to the unprecedented federal government response to the pandemic as a key driver of the current quandary: stimulus payments, expanded child tax credits, and heightened unemployment benefits, to name a few.

The problems were evident before the pandemic but became worse after. “The current manpower shortage highlights the new face of the flight from work in modern America,” Eberstadt writes. “With pre-Covid rates of workforce participation, almost three million more men and women would be in our labor force today. Prime-age men account for only a small share of this shortfall: Half or more of the gap is owing to men and women 55 and older no longer working.”

Eberstadt has also written quite a bit on how people are spending their time as non-workers:

“Men 55 to 64 who were neither working nor looking for work … were kings of the screen, clocking in a self-reported 2,400 hours during 2020—possibly a new record in the inactivity olympics and nearly 300 hours more than a typical fulltime job requires in year. Prime-age women who are both work-free and child-free exhibit similar traits—especially those neither employed nor in education or training (called NEETs by economists). In 2020 they reportedly devoted even less time to household chores, taking care of other household members or getting out of the house than prime male labor-force dropouts—and allocated almost 11.5 hours a day to “personal time” (mainly sleep), more than any other group.”



 

tv watching

“Men 55 to 64 who were neither working nor looking for work … were kings of the screen, clocking in a self-reported 2,400 hours during 2020.”

tv watching

“Men 55 to 64 who were neither working nor looking for work … were kings of the screen, clocking in a self-reported 2,400 hours during 2020.”

So, what’s the bottom-line conclusion of all of this? Here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity, we are striving to create a culture that values work and helps all people — particularly disadvantaged populations — find meaningful, self-supporting work. There is a two-step process here:

  1. Policy solutions

A big problem standing in the way is a failing welfare system, one that traps people instead of serving them. Even if well-intentioned, the existing collection of complex and inefficient welfare programs is vast, disconnected, and dehumanizing. Tragically, it deprives people of the hope and dignity that comes with steady work and the government’s response to the pandemic only made these problems worse. That is why GCO advocates for welfare reform that streamlines and simplifies the safety net, while doing away with benefit cliffs that punish people for earning more and climbing the economic ladder.

  1. Community solutions

The solutions don’t stop at policy reform, however. We also need on-the-ground help. That’s what GCO’s BETTER WORK program is all about. Now operating in Gwinnett County and Columbus — but soon spreading to other areas of the state — BETTER WORK is about collaboration between key stakeholders in our communities to help people find work.

The mission of BETTER WORK has never been more important than it is today. As we continue to emerge from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the labor market will keep shifting in significant ways. No matter what that looks like, BETTER WORK’s approach and mission will play an important role.




 

Q&A: Andre and Takara explain how GCO’s Elevate class changed their relationship

Q&A: Andre and Takara explain how GCO’s Elevate class changed their relationship

Q&A: Andre and Takara explain how GCO’s Elevate class changed their relationship

Key Points

  • Andre and Takara Knighton have been married for 15 years. 
  • The couple was facing some challenges in their relationship, and Elevate turned out to be just what they needed!
  • Learn more about Elevate at https://foropportunity.org/elevate/

Andre and Takara Knighton stumbled across the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s Elevate relationship enrichment class purely by accident. But it was a wonderful accident! The couple was facing some challenges in their relationship, and Elevate turned out to be just what they needed. Check out this Q&A for more.

Q: Please introduce yourselves – your family background, kids, jobs, school, work, where you live, etc.

We are Andre and Takara Knighton. We have been married for 15 years and produced two beautiful and funny children. We currently live in Georgia but have lived in other states before deciding to reside here. We both have done social work in different fields, but after the pandemic we decided to focus more on our multimedia company, Vizion Image Media.

Q: How did you first learn about Elevate?

Takara learned about the program randomly at a county office. She was registering the car tags and while she was waiting saw a flier for Elevate. So she went home and started researching more about it.

Q: What prompted you to want to attend Elevate?

We were in a tight spot in our relationship. We had been allowing little things to bother us and had been a little distant from one another. We kind of lost ourselves in just life and slowly began to lose our friendship. So when Takara saw this flier and did her research on the program, we decided to just go for it. We went with expectations to try something new and honestly have set dates for ourselves that would also be a building block for our relationship.

To learn more about Elevate and how you can participate, visit:

foropportunity.org/elevate

 

Q: What was your experience like in the class? What did you learn?

 The class was eye opening. We saw couples who had been married for 20 years to newly married couples that also had the same stories. It was encouraging to know that there are couples—especially couples married longer than us—that just needed a little extra help to learn to reconnect. We learned how to look at each other again, but in a new light. The major thing we learned is how to stop and refocus our negative thoughts back to the positive. Sometimes when you have been with someone for so long you tend to focus on all the negative attributes of the person instead of the good qualities that brought you two together. Also, you forget to tell your spouse how much they mean to you and remind them of why you feel in love. Now we are telling each other almost two to three times a week what we appreciate about one another.

 

Q: Of the seven core relationship skills and qualities for success, which one did you find most impactful for your own relationship?

Definitely “Enlighten.” We weren’t dealing with each other in a healthy manner because we only focused on the past. We forgot that people can change and likes and dislikes can change. We still looked at each other as the 20-somethings we used to be. So we had to become enlightened about who our spouse was again. We had to discover our passions and loves separately and apart. We had to be more sensitive to each other’s feelings and listen. We had to rediscover “us.”  

 

Q: What are some reasons you can think of for other couples to attend Elevate?

We believe that everyone should experience this class because it does open your eyes to some questions that you may never have thought to talk about before. You can be married for two years or 25 years and still never think to ask your partner some of these questions. This class allows you to explore a new part of you, and the you in your relationship. People change over time and so does your relationship. So instead of ditching it because you changed, learn how to deal with the new you in your relationship and discover how you both can make the changes work.

 

Q: What are your future goals and plans?

 We plan on dating each other more and trying new things together. We definitely want to travel overseas again and take our kids on their first overseas adventure so they can learn about life and other cultures.



 

Five reasons to celebrate the value of work on Labor Day

Five reasons to celebrate the value of work on Labor Day

Five reasons to celebrate the value of work on Labor Day

Key Points

  • A disproportionately large number of able-bodied adults have checked out of the workforce.
  • This Labor Day, we’d like to acknowledge five reasons why work remains so important.

Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 under President Grover Cleveland. The core meaning of the holiday is to celebrate the achievements and value of everyday workers. But here at the Georgia Center for Opportunity, we see another important part of Labor Day celebrations — to acknowledge the value of work itself.

The United States has a rich history of viewing work as ennobling. That’s part of what has helped each succeeding generation of Americans have a brighter economic future than the one before. But in recent history, we’ve witnessed an anti-work spirit arise in our nation.  

A disproportionately large number of able-bodied adults have checked out of the workforce. Even though the unemployment rate in the U.S. is at historic lows, the labor force participation rate has not caught up — indicating that millions of workers are absent from the workforce who could otherwise be working.

This Labor Day, we’d like to acknowledge five reasons why work remains so important.

  1. Work provides a key source of dignity

Work is about bettering one’s self and one’s family materially, that’s true. But that is not the only benefit. Another benefit is the way the work itself benefits the individual, the intangible but no less important side benefits of work.

When we are separated from work, we lose more than just monetary compensation or the food, shelter, clothing, and other basics that money can buy. We also face a loss of social connection, meaningful activity, self-respect, and overall purpose.

  1. Work helps to establish our daily rhythms

Work establishes the daily rhythms of life. It dictates when we rise from bed, when we eat our meals, how we schedule our weeks, how we interact with our families. Work provides important structure for our lives.

  1. Work benefits all of society

Workers make contributions that extend beyond their own families to society as a whole. They generate value and rely on themselves rather than government assistance. Employed people are also less likely to commit crime and their families tend to be healthier.

Bringing The Dignity of Work to every individual.

 



We believe that every able-bodied individual should have a path to fulfilling work. We do this through initiatives that create a flourishing job market, remove barriers to those unable to find work, and work directly with communities to move the un and underemployed into work.

  1. Work provides an opportunity to be generous to others

Work gives us the monetary resources to be generous to those in need. Maybe that’s why the U.S. is one of the most generous nations in the world for private philanthropy — historically, we’ve valued hard work and the generosity made possible by it.

  1. Work honors God

Our religious traditions teach that work has intrinsic value. In the Hebrew account of creation, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and instructed him “to work it and keep it.” In the New Testament, Paul stated that “if a man will not work, he will not eat.” The Calvinist work ethic brought to our shores by the Puritans equated diligent work with duty to God. 

Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op: serving and enriching families in need

Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op: serving and enriching families in need

Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op: serving and enriching families in need

Key Points

  • The Georgia Center for Opportunity has partnered with the co-op to offer Elevate, our relationship enrichment class, to the families it supports.
  • Depending on a family’s needs, Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op can provide up to 75% of the groceries they need in any given month, on a monthly basis and help with utility bills. 
  • Prior to the pandemic, the co-op received an average of 6,000 assistance requests per year. Today that number has more than doubled. 

The Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry provides food and financial assistance to the Grayson, Snellville, and Loganville communities, and is one of six cooperative ministries throughout Gwinnett County that share this mission. The Georgia Center for Opportunity has partnered with the co-op to offer Elevate, our relationship enrichment class, to the families it supports. In-person classes are currently in the planning stage. 

Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op aims to “honor and uphold the Lordship of Jesus Christ by reaching out, in His name, to our neighbors in need. To the end that our clients will find encouragement, love, and hope and that the Kingdom of God will be manifest on Earth.” 

“We accomplish this by satisfying two hungers: the stomach and the heart,” says Laura Drake, director at Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op. “We understand that not only what we do, but how we do it accomplishes much more than we can ever imagine.” 

According to Laura, the why behind the co-op’s mission is simple: “Because God says everyone is important and we get to believe Him.” They put their mission into action by creating an authentic, supportive community that values every individual it serves.  

“I believe that we are here to be gap fillers,” Laura says. “There are many people who have so much need in a month, but they have only so many resources, so there’s a gap.” 

Depending on a family’s needs, Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op can provide up to 75% of the groceries they need in any given month, on a monthly basis. They also assist with utility bills, up to $300 total in a 12-month period. 

The co-op has a strong relationship with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, in addition to the support it receives from the community. Families who receive assistance have access to fresh vegetables, dairy products, meats, and a host of other nutrient-rich foods. For those who receive food stamps, the co-op provides non-food necessities such as laundry detergent, feminine products, and diapers–all items that can’t be purchased with food stamps, but can still be costly for families in need. 

Rebirth in the time of COVID

According to Laura, Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op recreated itself during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, it served families once a month. Now, they’ve built the resources to offer bi-weekly assistance. This has alleviated stress for many families impacted by the pandemic and its economic impacts, including job losses, business closures, and inflation. 

Prior to the pandemic, the co-op received an average of 6,000 assistance requests per year. But when COVID hit, their requests skyrocketed, more than doubling to 15,000. With the help of the Gwinnett County government, the USDA, the National Guard, and the community’s generosity, the co-op was overwhelmed with support so they could continue to provide assistance even in the face of rapidly growing demands. In both 2020 and 2021, the co-op gave over one million pounds of food per year. 

Even though demand isn’t quite where it was at the height of COVID, Laura says it’s beginning to rise again due to inflation and the current costs of gas and necessities. 

Laura Drake, director at Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op

“I believe that we are here to be gap fillers. There are many people who have so much need in a month, but they have only so many resources, so there’s a gap.” 


Laura Drake, director at Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op.

“I believe that we are here to be gap fillers. There are many people who have so much need in a month, but they have only so many resources, so there’s a gap.” 

Laura Drake, director at Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op.

GCO partnership: Looking toward the future 

In addition to food and financial assistance, Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op plans to offer families access to GCO resources that help them strengthen their families and relationships. This approach will take the ministry toward a more holistic program. The team here at GCO is currently working to nurture our relationship with the co-op until they return to their building this fall. 

Laura says she’s thrilled to expand the co-op’s offerings to further assist the community.

“We’ve spent years developing that relationship [with the community],” she says. “Now, we want to offer that foundation to organizations such as GCO and others in the community that have something to offer the people we serve in a space that is comfortable for them.”

Elevate relationship classes are helping couples recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

Elevate relationship classes are helping couples recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

Elevate relationship classes are helping couples recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

Key Points

  • Elevate program: couples are enrolled in eight 90-minute sessions that cover the seven core skills and qualities for relational health.
  • Elevate is available free-of-charge to couples.
  •  Elevate classes provide — an opportunity for couples to practice better intentionality, to understand their partner better, and how to prioritize their relationship.

Today, couples face both internal and external pressures like never before. Many couples who weren’t struggling before the pandemic are struggling now, while those who were already in crisis now face an even worse situation.

Thankfully, there is a resource for couples in Georgia. It’s called the Elevate program and it’s a core part of the Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) mission.

Through the Elevate program, couples are enrolled in eight 90-minute sessions that cover the seven core skills and qualities for relational health. Given the need for a remote option, workshops are available both in-person in 12 counties in Georgia — including Gwinnett, Henry, and Houston counties — and virtual workshops where couples can participate from home.

Topics covered include how to:

  • Be more intentional and focused in your relationship
  • Better manage stress in your life
  • Strengthen your connection with each other
  • Develop a greater appreciation for one another
  • Spend more quality time together
  • Deal with differences in healthy ways
  • Build support for your relationship and family

To learn more about Elevate and how you can participate in one of the upcoming workshops, click here.

 

To learn more about Elevate and how you can participate in one of the upcoming workshops, click here.

One of the best parts is that Elevate is available free-of-charge to couples. This is made possible through a federal grant through the Fostering Relationship and Economic Enrichment Project (Project F.R.E.E.).

There is a common thread in what Elevate classes provide — an opportunity for couples to practice better intentionality, to understand their partner better, and how to prioritize their relationship.

“I appreciate my spouse more as a result of the Elevate experience,” shared one class participant.

Another said, “The biggest thing we gained were ways to refocus the positivity in our relationship even when conflict arises and life is difficult.”

Still another couple shared that Elevate enabled them to communicate on a more intimate level: “We still have layers to work through but the Elevate experience has given us fresh insight to navigate our path forward.”

Here are a few of the reasons couples chose to enroll in Elevate:

  • Create better intentional dialogue between partners
  • Create a closer connection through communication
  • Meet other couples similar to us
  • Tips for understanding my partner better
  • How to handle stressful moments in a relationship

“What I love about Elevate are the techniques that they teach the couples when dealing or handling stressors in their life,” said Katherine Greene, healthy families program manager for GCO. “I also love the way it taps into helping couples understand how their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors can influence their decision making and physical health. Elevate is extremely engaging and makes every interaction applicable to the lives of the couples, their family, and community.”