Atlanta economy getting better, still not good

Fewer Atlanta households are suffering financial distress, but the area’s economic environment is still unhealthy, according to a calculation of financial factors by an agency that counsels consumers.

Most financial signs have been improving – albeit very slowly, said Mark Cole, executive vice president of CredAbility.

“We are seeing fewer people because things have gotten better,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “And they are less in crisis now than we have seen recently.”

Despite that improvement, Atlanta lags the nation, according to Credability’s Consumer Distress Index. On that 100-point scale, Atlanta rose from 63.59 to 67.19.

Any score below 70 marks a state of financial distress, and Atlanta has been in that painful terrain during 19 of the past 20 quarters.

Families continue to struggle with unemployment – especially those unable to find work for many months or years – as well as depressed home values and burdensome debt.

Those problems are often made worse because many banks are still reluctant lend money, Cole said. “People who need it most cannot get credit.”

But at least the economy’s slow slog is in the right direction – back toward 70, said Cole. “At the rate we are going right now, it will be about six quarters.”

The national measure crossed the line last year and reached 71.77 in the fourth quarter.

CredAbility ranks all the states, as well as 77 of the largest metro areas, in a report to be released today.

Atlanta ranked toward the bottom of the major metro areas, but was still well ahead of the Orlando region, which came in dead last with a 61.91 on the CredAbility index.

At the high-end, Minneapolis-St. Paul set the financial pace with a score of 80.12.

Among states, Georgia was third from the bottom, ahead of just Mississippi and Nevada.

The collapse of housing was the main culprit in metro Atlanta and continues to hold back recovery. But the number of foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies have slowly fallen.

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