UGA: Augusta should add 3,200 jobs this year



It’s been a few years since economists were this optimistic about the economic fortunes of Georgia and Augusta.

The economy in Georgia is better off than last year because the housing market is bouncing back, there are better incentives to attract industry and the resumption of migration into the state.

“Our forecast this year is basically good news,” said Charles Knapp, interim dean of the business college at the University of Georgia. “Where previously, Georgia has recovered more slowly than the rest of the U.S.; In 2014, we predict that the trend will be reversed.”

The state’s gross domestic product should increase by 3.3 percent, Knapp said, compared to the nation’s rate of 2.5 percent.

Knapp and Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner presented the forecast Monday at the Augusta Convention Center. The forecast includes job growth and a dropping unemployment rate.

For Augusta, the UGA economics staff said the metro area will gain 3,200 jobs this year. Some of the drags on the economy from last year are lessening, such as the poor European economy and government cutbacks, Vitner said. Exports will be growing and so will new housing. On a year-to-year basis, Georgia added 95,000 private sector jobs in 2013.

“The unemployment rate is a confounding statistic almost everywhere,” Vitner said. “It has fallen more because people have left the workforce than because they found jobs.”

A reason why people are dropping out, he said, is that they are retiring rather than starting over in a new career or taking a lesser job. But the largest proportion of people not seeking jobs are young men.

“Prime age young men in their 20s are dropping out of the workforce. That is a failure of our education system to properly train them to get jobs worth their while to take,” Vitner said. “That’s true in Augusta. That’s true in Georgia. That’s true in the nation.”

Vitner said every year in February, the labor department revises its data for the previous year, which always skews the Augusta numbers upward, mostly because of the large number of contract and construction workers in the area that are credited to another community until the revision.

“Augusta is always one of the hardest places to measure employment because you measure it by place of employment. But we have a lot of contract workers that work at the base, at Savannah River Site” and those building the nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, he said.