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Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 11:20am

Reports Detail Commuting Patterns

A GPB analysis of new Census Bureau data shows coastal Chatham and Glynn Counties lead the state in the percentage of commuters who work in their home county.

The numbers, from three agency reports on commuting in the United States, reveal some expected and unexpected patterns in how Georgians commute.

For instance, it's not entirely surprising that a whopping 93% percent of Chatham and Glynn County commuters live and work in the same county.

Savannah, Brunswick and, in fact, other larger cities like Macon, Albany and Columbus are deep pools of jobs that not only keep residents working in the county, but also drain workers from their surrounding, less populated counties.

Still, there are some smaller, rural counties around the state that are managing to keep their workers.

For example, about 80% of commuters in Middle Georgia's Washington County work in the county.

Sandersville Mayor Jimmy Andrews says, workers come from Glascock and Hancock Counties.

"A lot of those folks commute into Washington County to work in the educational system, the hospital or the mining industry," Andrews says.

More than a fourth of all U.S. workers commute outside the county where they live, according to "County-to-County Commuting Flows: 2006-2010", a report on commutes between counties.

Another agency tome details where people have "long commutes."

It won't surprise anyone in Georgia that the Census Bureau report called "Mega Commuting in the U.S." ranks road-clogged Atlanta in the nation's top ten metropolitan areas for longest commutes by time.

But two Georgia cities, Hinesville and Brunswick, rank in the nation's top ten for commutes by distance.

Workers in those areas are a few notches down from workers in San Francisco and San Jose, California, the national leaders, in mean distance for commutes.

Some of those Hinesville and Brunswick workers are traveling 50 miles or more from Long County, where 83% of commuters leave the county for work.

Long County Chairman Robert Walker says the number doesn't surprise him.

"County jobs or jobs with the school system are about our only two job opportunities in our county," Walker says. "We have a development authority now that's trying to bring some businesses in. That's one thing we're doing to try to create jobs in the county."

Nationally, about 8.1 percent of U.S. workers have commutes of 60 minutes or longer and nearly 600,000 full-time workers had "megacommutes" of at least 90 minutes and 50 miles.

The average one-way daily commute for workers across the country is 25.5 minutes.

The figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey and have the potential to inform local community leaders about where people are coming and going for work.

GPB's analysis looked at commuting data for all 159 counties, tabulating and ranking them, below.

Margins of error were not calculated, although the Census Bureau reports that the margins or error for the top nine smaller counties, listed below, were between 1.5% (for Paulding County) and 7.2% (for Echols County). The errors likely came from respondents who indicated that they "commuted" to improbable places in foreign countries or states very far away. Decimals to tenths were provided only to determine rank.

Leaving Top 10 Counties

1. Echols - 85%
2. Long - 82%
3. Harris - 79%
4. Lee - 78.9%
5. Talbot - 78.7%
6. Twiggs - 77%
7. Oglethorpe - 76%
8. Jones - 75.1%
9. Taliaferro - 75%
10. Paulding - 74%

Staying Top 10 Counties

1. Glynn - 93.6%
2. Chatham - 93.4%
3. Lowndes - 92%
4. Dougherty - 87%
5. Tift - 86.5%
6. Muscogee - 86.4%
7. Coffee - 86.1%
8. Laurens - 85.9%
9. Whitfield - 85.1%
10. Bibb - 83%