ATLANTA – Georgia’s employment will grow by 2.9 percent this year, and more than one-quarter of those new jobs will be high-paying, according to a forecast released Wednesday by Georgia State University.

The more top-paid positions, the more spending potential those workers will have to stimulate the rest of the economy, said Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center that released the outlook.

“Georgia’s gain of 145,000 jobs in calendar year 2014 is impressive,” he said. “However, those 145,000 jobs being created aren’t giving the economy nearly as big of a bang for its buck as it did back in the 1990s when slightly fewer jobs, but with greater purchasing power, were created.”

So, it’s a hopeful trend when the forecast calls for a 4.7 percent increase in Georgia’s nominal personal income this year and 5.2 percent in the next.
The unusually harsh winter in the northeastern states that bogged down the U.S. economy also was a drag on Georgia’s. Those effects are working themselves out, Dhawan says.

More nagging are global issues, such as China’s failure to recover from a planned slowdown to curb inflation there and anxiety over whether Greece will leave the Eurozone. Those have combined to slow the growth of Georgia’s exports and, as a result, its manufacturing.

Petroleum prices will rise to $70 a barrel, still nowhere near the heights of $120. That means there will still be cushion in consumers’ commuting budget just as the state’s gasoline tax increases in July, suggesting tourism will remain healthy.
Hospitality and leisure are expected to grow a healthy 5.1 percent this year, beating the 4.6 percent of last year, according to the forecast.

Transportation/warehousing/utilities is also predicted to grow better than 5 percent this year, again partly due to savings at the gas pump.

Construction is the third, 5-percent-growth sector, fueled by Georgia’s population influx, low mortgage rates and several major building projects around the state.
Regionally, Gainesville and Dalton will have the most robust growth, topping 4.5 percent, while the weakest will be Valdosta and Warner Robins at about 1 percent. In the middle are Columbus at 2.0, Macon at 2.4, Athens at 2.9, Augusta at 3.1 and Savannah at 3.8 percent.

“Oil, the global economy and investment should have stabilized by the end of October,” Dhawan wrote. “This means that December is the earliest the Fed can raise rates.”

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