Georgia’s economic outlook positive for 2015, economist tells Buckhead Business Association

ATLANTA — The economic prospects for Georgia next year are positive, and the pace of Georgia’s economic growth will be quicker next year, a prominent state economist told the Buckhead Business Association (BBA) on Thursday.

Jeff Humphreys, director of Terry College of Business’ Selig Center for Economic Growth, told the audience Georgia’s economy will grow faster than the country as a whole for the second consecutive year. Concurrently, the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) should exceed its long-term average growth rates in recent years.

Humphreys predicted the state’s GDP would grow by 3.2 percent in 2015. That is higher than the state’s long-run trend rate of 2.9 and also exceeds the 2.8 percent GDP growth Humphreys is predicting for the nation as a whole next year.

“It’s very unlikely we’ll see a recession in Georgia or in the U.S. in 2015,” Humphreys said. “It’s a very well-balanced recovery, especially in the private sector. We’re not too dependent on any one type of economic activity.”

On the job front, Humphreys is predicting stronger job growth in the Peach State compared to the rest of the nation. That should help the state’s unemployment rate decrease to 6.9 percent from 7.9 percent, Humphreys told the BBA.

Humphreys predicts the national unemployment rate will fall to 5.5 percent from 5.8 percent.

Humphreys predicted construction followed by professional and business services and mining and logging will see the biggest job growth in Georgia next year. The outlook for health services employment opportunities in 2015 is also strong.

“Why am I optimistic? First of all, we are seeing a manufacturing renaissance,” Humphreys said. “It may not be huge, but it’s there. That’s noteworthy because since the turn of the millennium … Georgia lost four out of every ten manufacturing jobs. That’s a huge loss over a very short period of time that just devastated many areas of the state.”

But, Humphreys noted, that has reversed course in the past three years, particularly in the aircraft, automobile, construction equipment, life sciences and flooring industries.

While Humphreys’ outlook was primarily positive, he did identify a few headwinds that could work to stymie growth: entrepreneurs’ access to capital, federal spending cuts and federal monetary policy.

“I’m happy to be able to report we’re going to have an above-average year for the first time in a long time,” Humphreys said. “Perhaps the old normal is the new normal.”

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