Economist predicts slower Augusta economic growth

 

ATLANTA — Augusta will continue to lose jobs the rest of this year before staging a tepid rebound in 2014, according to economic predictions released Wednesday.

Statewide job growth and
exports will be positive but slower in 2013 than last year, and the unemployment rate will hold steady at 8.6 percent, according to a forecast released by the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University.

“Augusta’s economy lost jobs in six out of the last seven quarters,” wrote Rajeev Dhawan, the director of the center. “In the fourth quarter of 2012, Augusta shed 1,200 jobs, and for calendar year 2012, the (metro area) lost more than 2,600 jobs.”

Most of the pink slips came in the professional/business-services sector and manufacturing, but retailing also suffered losses. Yet, the area unemployment rate held steady at 8.9 percent.

The forecast calls for this year’s employment base to shrink another 0.3 percent before returning to an upward direction in 2014 with modest 0.6 percent job growth.

For the state as a whole, the outlook is only slightly more bullish.

“We have survived election uncertainties and fiscal-cliff hijinks,” Dhawan wrote. “Have we turned a corner at the state and metro (Atlanta) level? The answer is a conditional yes.”

The state’s economy will continue to expand for the rest of this year with little risk of falling back into recession. Overall job creation will result in 63,200 new hires compared with 70,300 last year. Still, that’s an improvement over the 32,500 new jobs of 2011.

The education and health care sector, which has been chugging along throughout the recession, will accelerate its job production, the forecast predicts, because questions about the Affordable Care Act are settled.

“Knowing that the act will not be repealed, many hospitals are gearing up for expansion,” Dhawan said.

That’s also fueling growth in the information-technology sector, which is supporting the law’s mandate for electronic medical records. Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law and the voters re-elected its sponsor, President Obama, the IT sector added 2,300 jobs, more than half of the sector’s annual growth.

Just hours after Dhawan released his forecast, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that the Ernst & Young consulting firm is opening a global IT center in Georgia with 400 new jobs.

“Georgia’s talent, affordability and willingness to embrace and support cutting-edge innovation have drawn quite a wave of technology-focused investment lately,” Deal said.

On the other hand, exports are weakening because of troubled overseas markets that erode employment for Georgia exporters.

 

UGA forecast: Augusta economy to continue limping

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