Stuck in reverse? “The once-thriving economy in metro Atlanta recently has been stuck in reverse—losing almost as many jobs as it created since 2000,” the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported at the end of June. That’s only a very small exaggeration of data on average annual employment provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In any case, the observation is illustrative of the sea change experienced by the local economy, once one of the nation’s hottest, in the recent past. Indeed, according to Boston Consulting Group as cited by this source, “the Atlanta region is expected to rank last among the 25 top U.S. metro regions in jobs lost during the recession recovered by the end of this year.” According to preliminary data from the BLS non-farm employment as of June 2012 was up 1.4% (32,200 jobs) year-over-year but remained down 2.5% (fully 112,000 jobs) from June 2007.
That said, the growth that is taking place, is seen in important sectors. BLS data indicate substantial gains in the centrally important Professional and Business Services segment (with its potential positive impacts on the local office market). Employment therein per the latest June data was up 4.2% (17,000 jobs) and 7.7% (30,400 jobs) over the latest 12- and 24-month time spans. With potential positive effects on the industrial real estate market, meanwhile, employment also is up in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector—6.1% (29,200 jobs) all told since June 2010. In April, along these lines, Carter’s Inc. announced that it would open a distribution center in northeast suburban Braselton that would create 600 full-time jobs by 2015. The local Bioscience sector, meanwhile, has benefited from a major recent coup. On August 1, Baxter International Ltd. broke ground for a $1 billion, 1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility “for biological medical treatments” at the 1,600-acre Stanton Springs master-planned development near east suburban Covington, the Chronicle reported on that date. The plant will employ 1,500. “In addition, Stanton Springs will also be home to a biotech training center that will provide a workforce pipeline for Baxter and other members of the state’s bioscience industry.”
Ravaged by the downturn, the local housing market, amid mixed messages, shows some signs of improvement. According to First Multiple Listing Service data as cited by the Chronicle in late June, “the median price of homes in metro Atlanta increased 6.2% year-over-year for the month of May.” In addition, the 31,900 homes actively for sale per that month represented a 45% year-over-year decline. “Additionally, the number of closed sales in May 2012 increased 5.4% and the number of pending sales increased almost 32% versus the previous May.” Construction activity has increased as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, 7,006 residential units were awarded buildings permits during the first half of the year, up fully 68.8% from the comparable period of 2011. While the multifamily sector claims the largest portion of the increase, permitting of single-family homes has grown as well. Thus, the 4,441 detached homes authorized for construction during the period were up 36.9% year-over- year. “There were 2,051 single-family housing starts in metro Atlanta in the second quarter, compared with 1,489 in the second quarter of 2011,” the Chronicle reported in early August citing Metrostudy. Completed sales, meanwhile, increased 12% year-over-year to 2,139 closings.
On the other hand, an onerous foreclosure problem persists. According to RealtyTrac, the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) ranked 11th among more than 200 U.S. metro areas in rate of foreclosure for the first quarter. With one of every 90 homes receiving some form of notification during the period, metro Atlanta’s 1.11% foreclosure rate more than doubled the nation’s. While houses continued to become “less expensive,” the Chronicle reported in June, a drop in local incomes cuts the other way with respect to relative affordability.