SAVANNAH — Armstrong State University’s latest Coastal Empire Economic Monitor reports that the underlying fundamentals of the regional economy remained strong in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Gains in total employment were offset by a decline in port activity and a modest dip in electricity sales. Tourism employment, airport plane boardings and consumer confidence registered gains, as did the coincident index of economic activity for the nation.
The Economic Monitor, which analyzes data and identifies trends affecting the regional economy, tracks key growth areas.
The Coastal Empire coincident economic index effectively held steady for the second consecutive quarter.
“Employment in the tourism industry and state government surged by about 900 workers each while job increases in the service and goods-producing sectors also contributed to the fourth quarter boost,” said Michael Toma, the Fuller E. Callaway professor of economics and the director of Armstrong’s Center for Regional Analysis. “The momentum in overall employment growth is expected to continue into the second half of 2016.”
In the housing market, building permit issuance for single-family homes was 25 percent higher than a year ago, moving to above 500 homes per quarter. Significantly, this is a level not seen since the housing market bubble burst in mid-2007. Additionally, the average value of a single-family home building permit rebounded somewhat, rising 3.7 percent to $206,000, slightly above the two-year average value of $202,500.
Additional highlights from the latest Economic Monitor include:
• The Coastal Empire leading economic index increased 0.4 percent, rising to 152.5 from 151.8 in the previous quarter. Gains in the housing market were offset by falling consumer expectations and an increase in the number of new claims for unemployment insurance.
• Seasonally adjusted employment in the three-county metro area increased 1,700 jobs to average 173,300 for the quarter. Over-the-year employment growth held steady at 3 percent and signaled the sixth consecutive quarter during which regional employment growth exceeded the 3 percent mark.
• Manufacturing added 300 workers while construction firms added 100 workers, reversing a two-quarter string of losses in construction. Construction employment climbed to 6,000. Total seasonally adjusted employment in manufacturing increased to 17,500 in December, hitting a 25-year high.
• Upside growth was limited by declines in electricity sales and port activity. The blip in electricity sales appears transitory and is attributed to weakness in October, as November and December sales rebounded healthily. Further, continued normalization of port activity, following the restoration of West Coast shipping patterns after labor strife there eased, returned cargo handling in Savannah to a more sustainable level.
• In the labor market, seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance increased 7.1 percent to 758 per month from 707 claims. While UI claims ticked up, this followed a particularly strong third-quarter figure. By comparison, UI claims remained 6 percent below the figure recorded for the fourth quarter of 2014.
The Coastal Empire Economic Monitor presents quarterly economic trends and short-term economic forecasts for the Savannah 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 CRA@armstrong.edu.
Armstrong’s Center for Regional Analysis, housed in the university’s economics department, meets the applied research needs of Savannah’s business and community organizations. 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.