Housing inventories remain relatively low, new housing starts and housing permits continue to rise, and sales and production in the floorcovering industry continue to increase. That’s good news for the Dalton area economy, according to Michael Chriszt, vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
“In northwest Georgia, manufacturing jobs are increasing for sure, but not to the levels we saw before the recession,” he said.
Chriszt spoke Thursday at the trade center at a luncheon hosted by Dalton State College’s Center for Economic Research and Entrepreneurship.
Unemployment in the Dalton metro area, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, fell to 10.3 percent in August, the latest month for which data were available, from 12.3 percent in July.
Unemployment in the Dalton area had risen in June and July, but Chriszt said that might not have been bad news. In fact, it could have been good news.
“It could mean that conditions were improving enough and some people were confident enough to come back into the workforce,” he said.
The unemployment rate is the share of individuals in the workforce who do not have jobs. The labor force is those who have jobs or are looking for work. Someone who is not employed but is not looking for a job does not count as part of the unemployed. But if that person starts to look for work he counts as part of the unemployed.
The Federal Reserve is the nation’s central bank and controls its monetary policy. Chriszt said it has a dual mission of fighting inflation and promoting employment. Right now, inflation is below the Fed’s target of 2 percent and unemployment is above its target of 6.5 percent, so Fed officials plan to continue trying to stimulate the economy through monetary policy.
“We are going to do everything we can to stimulate the economy to get it to grow,” he said.
The Fed is an independent agency with its own funding, so it was not affected by the federal shutdown. But Chriszt said it does rely on federal agencies for much of the data it uses, so with the shutdown it didn’t have access to some of the information it typically uses. But he said it continued to collect data from other sources.