Augusta to replace lost jobs in 2012

Area could recover lost jobs next year

Georgia will continue to lag behind the nation’s economic growth in 2012, but both the state and Augusta will add jobs in the coming year, economists predicted Friday.

The 2,100 metro Augusta jobs lost in 2011 are expected to be replaced next year, said Mark Vitner, a managing director and senior economist at Wells Fargo. He was doubtful, however, that the reported job loss numbers are accurate reflections of economic activity.

“I’m highly suspicious about how negative some of the employment numbers are because it just doesn’t seem to match what my eyes are seeing,” Vitner said.

He delivered the local outlook at the annual Augusta Regional Economic Outlook at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center. Robert Sumichrast, the dean of the University of Georgia Terry College of Business, presented the state forecast for about 250 executives and city leaders.

Relatively small layoffs should have been offset by increased activity in the metro area, especially large job creation projects at Plant Vogtle in Burke County and the Bridgestone tire plant in Graniteville, Vitner said. The employment numbers likely will be revised when new reports are released in February, he said.

Georgia is expected to add 18,000 jobs, the first increase since losing 250,000 jobs in 2009, Sumichrast said. Slow economic growth and a slight chance of recession will closely resemble the past few years, he said.

“If we continue to grow, Georgia will replace its lost 360,000 jobs by 2020. That’s four years later than the United States is expected to recover its lost jobs,” Sumichrast said.

The state’s economy will expand by 1.5 percent in 2012, compared with 1.8 percent national growth, he said. Tighter fiscal policy and less spending by state and local governments, both of which are expected for the year, will hinder growth.

Additionally, Georgia’s dependence on real estate development makes it harder for the state to recover from the bursting of the housing bubble, he said. Construction, information services and government sectors will perform worse in 2012. Manufacturing, transportation, financial markets, service and agriculture sectors should increase, according to the state forecast.

Georgia’s unemployment rate will average just more than 10 percent in 2012, he said.

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