A tale of two (Georgia) cities
Dalton and Warner Robins have a few things in common. Both are relatively modestly sized metro areas in Georgia, each with a population of roughly 135,000. Both are roughly 100 miles from Atlanta on I-75 (Dalton to the north and Warner Robins to south).
What they do not have in common is their relative performance in terms of employment over the last several years. Since January 2006, Dalton's total employment level has declined from about 80,000 in 2006 to 65,000 (–19 percent), while Warner Robins's employment has risen from 55,000 to 60,000 (+9 percent) over the same period.
Looking closer at performance during the recession and into the recovery, the differences are just as stark. The peak-to-trough percent change in Dalton employment was –18.2 percent, and in Warner Robins it was just –3 percent. Since employment levels troughed in Warner Robins (December 2007), payrolls have increased 3.1 percent. In Dalton, employment levels troughed in September 2009 and have risen just 0.3 percent since.
The chart below plots the peak-to-trough percent change in total employment for metro areas in the Sixth District against the trough-to-present percent change. For Dalton (the red dot in the chart), the plot is –18.2, +0.3 while in Warner Robins (the green dot) it is –3, +3.1. When compared to the rest of the metro area plots, Warner Robins comes out looking best, while Dalton is among the worst.
It's not hard to figure out what is going on here. Dalton is suffering the effects of the decline in construction. Much of its industry is geared to home and office flooring products. Manufacturing employment in Dalton is down over 21 percent since early 2007. Warner Robins, on the other hand, continues to feel the benefit of Robins Air Force Base. Federal government employment in Warner Robins has increased over 13 percent during the last few years, helping to offset some declines in other sectors.
Two cities, located 200 miles apart, with two vastly different stories.
By Michael Chriszt, an assistant vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department
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