Readers of SouthPoint will recall my affinity for Cleveland’s professional sports teams. It’s been a long time since we have won anything (1964, to be exact; the year BEFORE I was born, by the way). But I’ll proclaim the drought partially over with Jason Dufner’s recent win at the PGA Championship. “Duf” is a Cleveland native, so I think that should count. He’s also lived in the Southeast and went to college here, so it’s a win for the Sixth Federal Reserve District as well.
Since I’m not a sportswriter, I’ll cut right to the point of the Cleveland link. It’s not really a link between Cleveland, Ohio, and sports victories. It’s a link between Cleveland, Tennessee, and economic victories.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Cleveland, Tennessee metro area has experienced the largest increase in total employment (on a percent change basis) since the onset of the national recession in late 2007, at 7.8 percent. It appears that Cleveland is benefiting from its proximity to the Volkswagen auto manufacturing plant in Chattanooga and the rebound in national housing, which has increased demand for household durables—something that is benefiting the Whirlpool appliance manufacturing plant in Cleveland, as an Atlanta Fed publication recently noted.
Hinesville-Fort Stewart, Georgia, is next on the list with a 7.7 percent gain since December 2007. Much of that gain is no doubt tied to military base adjustments, as are the gains logged by Clarksville, Tennessee, and Warner Robins, Georgia. Nashville’s 6 percent increase is perhaps the most impressive and has the most impact, as it represents a net increase of 46,300 jobs. Knoxville is the other Tennessee metro area whose current employment levels are ahead of December 2007 readings.
In Louisiana, employment levels in the cities of Lafayette, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge are currently above prerecession levels. Alabama has two metro areas in positive territory: Auburn-Opelika and Tuscaloosa. Currently, Auburn is ahead of Tuscaloosa in terms of employment gains, and I will diplomatically refrain from making any analogies to college football...
The following table lists the region’s metro areas and shows the net change in total employment from December 2007 to June 2013 in terms of both total and percent change. What stands out is the fact that just 11 of the 65 metro areas in the region are at employment levels that are higher than they were in December 2007. It’s sobering to think that employment levels, although improving, are still so far below prerecession levels in most the of region.
That said, it is just as important to acknowledge that the region’s labor markets are improving. The chart below shows the level of total employment and the unemployment rate for the six states that are wholly or partially in the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s District (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee).
We have continued to see steady progress in economic fundamentals, in my opinion. Progress is evident, and we should not lose sight of that.
By Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed’s public affairs department
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