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AASU report: Local economy expanded in 4th quarter of 2013

POSTED: March 31, 2014 8:31 p.m.

Armstrong Atlantic State University’s latest Coastal Empire Economic Monitor reports the Savannah-area economy expanded rapidly during the fourth quarter of 2013 and should continue to experience significant growth throughout 2014.

The fourth quarter Economic Monitor, which analyzes data and identifies trends affecting the regional economy, reports activity accelerating to nearly five percent on an annualized basis. Significant gains in electricity sales, tourism and port activity contributed to the quickening pace of economic expansion.

In addition, the Coastal Empire leading economic index increased for the eighth consecutive quarter, with regional housing and labor markets experiencing considerable improvement. The Coastal Empire leading economic index surged, marking the second consecutive quarter in which annualized growth was 10 percent or higher.  The surge in the leading index foreshadows continued economic expansion through much of 2014.

“The forecasting index skyrocketed in the fourth quarter of 2013, so we expect to see continued and strengthening growth,” said Michael Toma, Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Economics and the director of Armstrong’s Center for Regional Analysis. “There were increases in six of seven coincident regional economic indicators, which indicate the area’s economic engine is currently performing rather well. Furthermore, the surge in the forecasting index points toward continued improvement in Savannah’s economy in the short run.”

Highlights from the latest Economic Monitor include:
• The Coastal Empire coincident economic index increased to 161.8, marking an annualized 4.7 percent increase, which is the fastest growth in nearly two years.

• In a stunning notable development, employment in the metro area temporarily pushed above its pre-recession peak of 2007.

• Employment hit an all-time high of 163,200 in October of 2013, with large quarterly gains in the hospitality industry and business services. Private sector employment growth has far outpaced growth in government sector jobs.

• The Coastal Empire leading economic index increased by 4.2 percent, rising from 130.1 (revised) in the previous quarter to 135.5.

• Hotel room sales and numbers of tourists on trolleys and tour buses are up 6 percent compared to one year ago.

• In the labor market, the fourth quarter of 2013 marked the second consecutive quarter the average number of unemployment insurance claims dropped below 1,000 claims per month, a benchmark not achieved since early 2008.

• Unemployment decreased to 7.1 percent (seasonally adjusted), which is one full percentage point lower than one year ago.

The Coastal Empire Economic Monitor presents quarterly economic trends and short-term economic forecasts for Savannah’s Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The quarterly report measures the heartbeat of the local economy, based on the analysis of economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the City of Savannah, Georgia Power and the three counties in the MSA — Chatham, Bryan and Effingham.

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