Georgia jobs recovery: Late 2022, says forecast

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The recession in Georgia is likely over, but don’t expect it to necessarily feel that way. Georgia’s Terry College of Business predicts choppy economic growth until COVID-19 vaccines become widely available. Georgia probably won’t reach pre-pandemic job levels until at least late 2022, Jeff Humphreys, the director of UGA’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. Assuming there aren’t more widespread pandemic-related lockdowns, . the state’s overall economic output should rebound more rapidly and grow above average later next year

UGA outlook sees only choppy economic growth pre-vaccine

The recession in Georgia is likely over, but don’t expect it to necessarily feel that way yet, local economic forecasters say.

The latest economic outlook by the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, released Thursday, predicts only choppy economic growth until COVID-19 vaccines become widely available, perhaps by the middle of next year.

Georgia probably won’t reach pre-pandemic job levels until at least late 2022, said Jeff Humphreys, the director of UGA’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. And some industries may take far longer to recover.

Assuming there aren’t more widespread pandemic-related lockdowns, the state’s overall economic output should rebound more rapidly and grow above average later next year, he said.

Said Benjamin Ayers, Terry College’s dean, “Full recovery of the economy will arrive sooner in Georgia than in the United States. In Georgia, there’s relatively less economic debris to clean up.”

Job cuts in Georgia weren’t quite as brutal as they were for the nation. And the UGA forecast expects Georgians will see bigger boosts in housing construction and benefit from automotive industry gains and a surprisingly large batch of economic development announcements.

Strong economic growth in the second half of 2021 would essentially make up for much of the economic output that was lost in 2020, Humphreys said.

The forecast predicts Georgia’s economy will grow 4% next year, compared to a decline of 3.7% this year.

Georgia and metro Atlanta benefit from strength in transportation, logistics and e-commerce, Humphreys said. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport could get a boost in cargo. And cyber security is expected to see gains.

But some parts of Georgia’s economy may not fully recover to previous job levels for years or, possibly, ever, he said.

The pandemic has likely accelerated trends that were already brewing, including shifts to online alternatives, the economist said. Among those at risk: movie theaters and passenger airlines, the latter as many companies have pivoted to virtual business meetings.

A dip back into a recession is still possible, but not predicted, according to UGA’s forecast.

Ayers, the business school dean, said a still-greater surge in coronavirus cases is the biggest risk. More federal stimulus spending may be needed, he said. Given the economic risks, “it is better to err on the side of too much stimulus rather than not enough.”

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