University of Georgia economic forecasters predict the state’s economy will grow faster than that of the nation as a whole in 2013. But growth will remain sluggish at both the state and national levels.
“Georgia’s economy sank deeper during the recession, and it grew more slowly during the early years of the recovery than the national economy. But we believe that will change this year,” said Robert Sumichrast, dean of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.
Sumichrast spoke Tuesday at the Dalton Golf & Country Club for the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce’s “Wake Up Dalton” breakfast.
Sumichrast says university forecasters predict the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) will rise 2.1 percent this year, compared to a 1.8 percent increase for national GDP. But that growth could be threatened, he said, if Congress and President Barack Obama do not develop a long-term plan to rein in federal debt.
“There is a real chance that our leaders could make policy decisions that could lead us back into recession,” he said.
Sumichrast said the state should add about 53,000 jobs this year, but that won’t be enough to push the unemployment rate below 8 percent. In fact, he said, at current rates of job growth the state won’t recover the jobs it lost during the recession until 2016.
He predicted that the strongest job growth will be in professional and business services, followed by leisure and hospitality and manufacturing.
But Sumichrast said the state suffers from a mismatch between the jobs it will create and the skills possessed by many in the workforce, and he said the state needs to bolster its education system to sustain long-term growth.
“A poorly educated workforce puts Georgia at a competitive disadvantage with other states and nations when it comes to recruiting companies. That problem is especially bad when it comes to high-paying, high-technology companies,” he said.
Sumichrast said the university’s forecasters do not break down their predictions by region, so he could not provide any numbers for how the Greater Dalton area will fare in 2013. But he said the region should share in the state’s overall growth.
Sumichrast did say that construction of single-family houses should grow 20 percent this year in Georgia, and chamber President Brian Anderson said that’s good news for area floorcovering companies.
“His report matches up with and puts some numbers to what we have been hearing from bankers and financial people and from executives of local companies,” Anderson said. “Things seem better. Nobody is expecting 2013 will be gangbusters. But it looks like things will be improving, and there are some signs we might be able to sustain this growth.”