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AASU report says economy is holding steady
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SAVANNAH — At the close of 2012, the Savannah-area economy appeared poised to maintain its forward momentum into 2013. While the expected growth did not come to fruition during the first quarter of 2013, the economy did not falter, but rather, held steady in the face of faltering consumer confidence, according to Armstrong Atlantic State University’s latest Coastal Empire Economic Monitor.

The forecasting index for the region remains strong, however, and was boosted by gains in the housing and labor markets, thus suggesting that the economy will regain its footing and reset into a growth pattern through the remainder of the year.

The first quarter Economic Monitor was released June 9.

“The local economy demonstrated resiliency in the face of flagging consumer confidence in the opening quarter of the year,” said Michael Toma, Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Economics and the director of Armstrong’s Center for Regional Analysis. “Despite the headwind, the bedrock foundation of the economy remains strong, recording growth in employment, tourism and port activity. Further, the housing market appears to be gathering greater strength while the labor market continues its slow heal.”

Highlights of the increases include:
• Growth in employment, electricity sales and port activity buoyed the economy in the first quarter.
• The region’s employment level is only 2 percentage points shy of the pre-recession peak of 2007.
• 800 workers were added in the first quarter, leading to a five-year-high of 158,000 jobs (seasonally adjusted).
• The forecasting index has been on an upward swing for five consecutive quarters.
• The housing market is poised for its best year since 2008.
• While first-quarter tourism was weaker compared to the strong fourth-quarter finish in 2012, March hotel/motel sales-tax receipts tied the single-month record set in March 2012.

Although the regional economy saw little growth, the outlook for 2013 is one of the more optimistic since the financial crisis and 2007-09 recession. The housing market is gaining ground, with a 23 percent increase in building permits from the previous quarter. The unemployment rate has fallen and is the lowest quarterly unemployment rate in four years. As these factors indicate, the momentum is building and is expected to continue through the rest of the year.

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.

The report presents a short-term forecast of the region’s economic activity in the next six to nine months and is available free by electronic mail. To subscribe, email