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01/19/2012

Georgia on my mind (again)

You wouldn't think a breakfast talk about economics would be all that interesting. Not true. Yesterday morning, I participated in a monthly breakfast seminar hosted by a local group aptly called "Eggo-nomics." The discussion was about the current state of Georgia's economy.

I'm not saying that my presentation was all that enthralling, but the questions and comments from the participants certainly were interesting. Of the several questions I received, the most common centered on the theme of why Georgia's economy continues to lag other parts of the country.

As it so happens, these questions mirrored one that was posed to Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart in a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was asked, "Certain areas of the country, like the Northeast, are recovering faster than the Southeast. Why?" Here is President Lockhart's response:

"I get the question frequently: 'How is the Southeast doing relative to the rest of the country?' And my answer is, broad generalization, a little worse than the national averages. Not dramatically worse, just a little worse. And I use unemployment as an example. The unemployment rates for the six states we follow here, with the exception of Louisiana, are above the national average.

"Those rates have been coming down, just as the rate nationally has been coming down. But there is a lagging picture for Georgia and for most of the Southeast. You can explain some of the cause by looking at the exposures in the bust which were real estate-oriented, the dramatic slowdown in construction and the number of people put out of work who were in the construction trades.

"And to some extent in banking [many of the problems stemmed from] the dependence on real estate lending in many banks.

"If you want to step back even further, you had a couple of decades of in-migration, particularly Atlanta. You have to build houses to hold the people who migrate here, so real estate construction was a big thing. They come and get jobs; they need office buildings in which to work. So commercial real estate is a big thing and when that turns negative, it creates a problem that is more difficult than in the Northeast service-industry contraction."

SouthPoint has reported on this topic and will continue to dig into reasons behind Georgia's lagging recovery.

Photo of Michael Chriszt Mike Chriszt, an assistant vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department

January 19, 2012 in Georgia, Outlook | Permalink

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