The most recently released Brookings Metro Monitor lists Augusta among the slowest-recovering metropolitan areas.
Augusta was 87th out of 100 metro areas for economic recovery from the recession, behind New Orleans in first place and ahead of Little Rock, Ark., in last place. Augusta ranked 91st in unemployment and 99th in job creation, tying for last place with Lakeland, Fla. Augusta ranked 72nd overall last quarter. The area’s house prices were ranked a more positive 28th.
Bad job-creation numbers are most likely related to the 7.7 percent drop in construction jobs and 6.6 percent drop in real estate jobs in the Augusta area over the past year, according to Alec Friedhoff, a Brookings research analyst and author of the report. There were minor increases in the health services (2.2 percent) and information (1.0 percent) sectors.
Friedhoff said it’s important to keep in mind what the report measures: recovery from the recession.
“These rankings don’t necessarily correlate with the state of your economy,” he said.
Augusta weathered the recession with little impact as many other areas were hard hit and is just now experiencing the worst of the effects, Friedhoff said. Cities such as Detroit have experienced significant recovery, but only because the recession affected them so deeply. Those cities also experienced more growth in the boom immediately before the recession, when Augusta’s economy stayed relatively steady.
“Augusta had less distance to fall,” he said.
Augusta ranked 22nd in gross metropolitan product, an area Friedhoff said can be an early indicator of where the economy is headed. Positive ranking in that area is still not necessarily a reason to get excited, he said.
“The numbers don’t really give us enough information to predict,” he said. “Forecasting is a difficult business.”