Georgia's financial stress level rises

Georgians continue to struggle with a bad economy more than residents of many other states, a report from Atlanta-based CredAbility says.

Financial distress, measured quarterly by the consumer credit counseling service, has increased slightly in Georgia. The state is the third-most distressed in the country, CredAbility said, behind Nevada and Mississippi. It was the fourth-most distressed last quarter.

CredAbility bases its measure on employment, housing, credit, net worth and how families manage budgets.

Though unemployment has dipped and Georgians’ household budgets are more balanced, bankruptcies and foreclosures have hurt other measures in the index, said Mark Cole, CredAbility’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“We’re treading water right now,” he said. “We’re left in a holding pattern until employment steps forward.”

Georgia scored 62.26 percent on the index in the fourth quarter of 2011; a score below 70 indicates a financial distress, and a 60 or below indicates crisis, Cole said. A year ago, Georgia scored 62.7 percent; three months ago, it was 62.54 percent.

Georgians have been financially stressed since the beginning of 2008.

“I think we’re going to find ourselves in this place for a good while,” Cole said. “It’s just a difficult time for families out there.”

The national average is 67.6 percent, up nearly 0.5 percent from a year ago.

Most financially distressed states: 1. Nevada 2. Mississippi 3. Georgia 4. Michigan 5. Florida

Least financially distressed states: 1. North Dakota 2. South Dakota 3. Wyoming 4. Nebraska 5. Alaska