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Report: Area economy growing fast
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SAVANNAH — Armstrong Atlantic State University’s latest Coastal Empire Economic Monitor reports the Savannah-area economy expanded rapidly during the first quarter of 2014 and should continue to experience strong growth throughout the year.

The Economic Monitor, which analyzes data and identifies trends affecting the regional economy, reports across-the-board growth in all eight indicators tracked to assess the current state of the economy.

“Savannah’s economy has been strengthening and should continue to do so for the rest of the year,” said Michael Toma, Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Economics and the director of Armstrong’s Center for Regional Analysis. “In the first quarter of 2014, a significant improvement in the housing market was coupled by notable uptick in the labor market. In addition, we’re seeing the fastest nine-month pace of economic growth recorded since 2006.”

In the first quarter of 2014, the coincident index pushed securely above the pre-recession peak of 2007, while the forecasting index increased sharply. The combined message from both indices is that Savannah’s economy is growing in a healthy and sustainable manner.

For the previous three quarters, the leading index has increased at an average annualized pace of 12 percent, the fastest consistent nine-month period of gains since late 2009, when the economy was starting to emerge from a major recession. In addition, the Coastal Empire leading economic index continued its surge through the first quarter of 2014, extending its period of rapid growth to three consecutive quarters.

Highlights from the latest Economic Monitor include:

The Coastal Empire coincident economic index surged 1.4 percent to 164.0. This marks an annualized pace of 5.7 percent and comes on the heels of the rapid 4.4 percent growth at the end of 2013.

Seasonally adjusted employment in the three-county metro area averaged 163,700 during the quarter, eclipsing the pre-recession high by 1,000 jobs. Large quarterly gains occurred in professional/business services, leisure/hospitality and transportation/utilities.

Private sector employment continued to surge, increasing by 2,500 jobs during the quarter, even as government employment stagnated, losing 300 jobs. Since 2010, the number of private sector jobs increased by 13 percent (14,100 jobs), while the number of government jobs fell by about 4 percent (800 jobs).

The regional tourism industry continues to fare well in 2014. Hotel and motel room receipts are 7.4 percent ahead of previous year data through the first quarter. Employment in the leisure/hospitality sector increased by 800 to an all-time high of 24,100 jobs.

The seasonally adjusted number of new residential homes permitted for construction dipped to 324 from 337, a 3.4 percent decline. The average value of a building permit issued for a single family home increased two percent, rising to $210,300 from $206,500.

In the labor market, seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance fell about 10 percent to 888 claims per month during the quarter, marking the slowest pace of new claims in nearly six years.

The Coastal Empire Economic Monitor presents quarterly economic trends and short-term economic forecasts for Savannah’s Metropolitan Statistical Area. 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 email. To subscribe, email

Armstrong’s Center for Regional Analysis is housed in the university’s economics department. Areas of concentrated research include regional economic forecasting, economic impact analysis, economic development and business expansion, tourism development, survey-based research and specialty reports on topics of state, regional and local interest.