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Economists: 2013 will be a little better than 2012

Modest growth being predicted for Augusta area

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As economists peer into their crystal balls, they see a 2013 that will be slightly better than 2012.

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Caole Coleman, far left, looks on as Tracie Cook, right, recruiting manager for Teleperformance, reviews North Augusta resident Rosetta Jackson's resume during a job fair put on by the Georgia Department of Labor and the Greater Augusta Employer Committee at ASU's Christenberry Fieldhouse.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Caole Coleman, far left, looks on as Tracie Cook, right, recruiting manager for Teleperformance, reviews North Augusta resident Rosetta Jackson's resume during a job fair put on by the Georgia Department of Labor and the Greater Augusta Employer Committee at ASU's Christenberry Fieldhouse.

Simon Medcalfe, a professor at the Hull College of Business at Augusta State University, said the local economy will have consistent and steady growth in 2013.

The economic predictions from the University of Georgia call for more jobs next year. Averaging out the year’s ups and downs, the university’s economists think Augusta will have growth of 0.4 percent, about 800 jobs.

Rajeev Dhawan, director of the the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, was a little more optimistic, believing the job growth for 2013 will be 0.8 percent, about 1,600 jobs.

That would be a reversal of the job bleeding in 2012.

Based on the data from the Labor Department, the average number of people with jobs in 2011 was 209,900, not including the self-employed. That dropped to 205,500 this year. Using data for the entire labor force, there were 235,294 people with jobs in 2011, which slipped to 232,555 in 2012.

Most of those job losses were in manufacturing, retail and construction, offsetting slight gains in education and hospitality.

Medcalfe said the benefits of the manufacturing projects in the area won’t be seen until 2014 when they’re completed. But the commercial construction industry will continue to see the benefits of massive projects at Plant Vogtle, Bridgestone and Starbucks.

By then, the employment in manufacturing will be lower, partly due to Procter & Gamble moving its production to Louisiana.

The jobless rate went on a rollercoaster ride in 2012, starting the year at 9.1 percent, dropping to the Master’s Tournament dip of 8.4 percent in April and then climbing to 9.8 percent in July. It was back down to 8.5 percent for November, which makes the metro area even with Georgia.

“Augusta’s economy has seen a lackluster recovery thus far. Population growth during 2011 was at its slowest pace since 2003, likely reflecting the lack of job growth,” wrote Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo, in the bank’s economic outlook for Georgia. “The federal government is a major employer and tighter federal budgets are certainly being felt. The Savannah River Site Nuclear Facility was the single-largest recipient of stimulus dollars and the letdown from the winding down of that spending is evident.”

Housing was a bright spot in 2012. Medcalfe said home values are up 2 percent to 4 percent and houses are selling quicker.

“The sale of existing homes doesn’t have much impact in terms of jobs, but psychologically, I guess it is a big thing on how wealthy they feel and how confident they are about the economy,” he said.

Real estate agents have had their best year since 2007. According to data from the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors, there were 4,743 homes sold from January to November, about 330 more than 2011 and 370 more than 2010.

According to the home value index for homes that go through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, prices have been in a steady decline since the end of 2009. Prices ticked upward in the third quarter of this year. The average sales price, according to the Realtors association, was also slightly higher this year than last year.

“With sluggish employment and population growth, Augusta’s housing market recovery continues at a stubbornly slow pace,” Vitner said. “Home prices have leveled off recently. Augusta remains exceptionally affordable, which is a powerful drawing card for new industry and residents.”


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