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Forecast: Savannah job growth to be strong

ATLANTA — Savannah’s job growth will be at a health pace for the remainder of 2013, according to economic predictions released today. Statewide, Georgia’s 2013 job growth and exports will also be positive but slower and less than last year. The state’s unemployment rate will hold steady at 8.6 percent, according to a forecast released by the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University. “Savannah’s economy created more than 3,600 new jobs in the second half of 2012, up from 1,000 new jobs in the first half,” wrote Rajeev Dhawan, director of the center. “The gains were widespread across categories, with large increases in the education and health, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and trade and manufacturing sectors.” The metro Savannah area is still 7,000 jobs short of full recovery from the recent recession, but the area unemployment rate declined from a midyear 8.8 percent to 8.2 by year end. The Savannah forecast calls for this year’s employment base to grow 2.2 percent compared to 0.9 percent last year. For the state as a whole, the outlook is slightly less bullish. “We have survived election uncertainties and fiscal-cliff hijinks,” Dhawan wrote. “Have we turned a corner at the state and metro (Atlanta) level? The answer is a conditional yes.” The state’s economy will continue to expand for the rest of this year with little risk of falling back into recession. Overall job creation will result in 63,200 new hires – or 1.7 percent – compared to 70,300 last year. Still, that’s an improvement over the 32,500 new jobs of 2011. The education/health care sector, which has generally been chugging along throughout the recession, will accelerate its job production, the forecast predicts, because questions about the Affordable Care Act are settled. “Knowing that the act will not be repealed, many hospitals are gearing up for expansion,” Dhawan said. That’s also fueling growth in the information-technology sector, which is supporting the law’s mandate for electronic medical records. Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law and the voters re-elected its sponsor, President Barack Obama, the IT sector added 2,300 jobs, more than half of the sector’s annual growth. Georgia State is forecasting it will add 4,000 jobs annually for the next 10 years. Just hours after Dhawan released his forecast, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that the Ernst & Young consulting firm is opening a global IT center in Georgia with 400 new jobs. “Georgia’s talent, affordability and willingness to embrace and support cutting-edge innovation have drawn quite a wave of technology-focused investment lately,” said Deal. On the other hand, exports are weakening due to troubled overseas markets that erode employment for Georgia exporters. Europe’s debt crisis, Japan’s recession and China’s inflation-fighting capital freeze all limit demand for Georgia-made exports such as jet planes, cars and poultry. Georgia’s exports hit a record last year, for the fourth year in a row. Economic Development Commissioner Chris Cummiskey told the Savannah Morning News Tuesday that despite the global weakness in demand, the state can still boost its international sales. “With the fastest-growing port in the country and a proactive trade team, it’s no accident our numbers are growing,” he said. “Prioritizing the proposed deepening of the Savannah Ports will only add to our companies’ trade successes.” Follow Walter Jones on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or reach him at walter.jones@morris.com and (404) 589-8424.

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