Reports show two views of Georgia economy

One cites high economic distress, another shows strong hiring.

Georgia had the nation’s second-highest proportion of residents living in economic distress four years after the official end of the Great Recession, according to a study released this week by a bi-partisan think tank.

Roughly 25 percent of the state’s 10.1 million people were in distress as of 2013, a level of pain exceeded only in Nevada, the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Innovation Group said.

The data is more than a year old, and job growth has been gaining strength. But economists say growth has not yet fully made up for the damage done by the recession to a state that already had a substantial population in or near poverty.

The EIG study was based on Census data, and the conclusions were drawn from a series of variables that included education levels, housing vacancy rates, unemployment, numbers of businesses, jobs and income.

Of 14 states with more than 15 percent of the population living in distress, nine were in the Southeast, the study found. In Nevada one in three people were distressed, while at the other end of the rankings Wyoming had virtually none, according to the study.

The EIG was founded by a group of entrepreneurs, investors and philanthropists. The organization’s economic advisory board includes economists who have worked for both Democratic and Republican administrations.

A brighter and more recent picture was painted on Friday by the Atlanta Regional Commission, which said metro Atlanta has been adding jobs at the second-fastest pace among the nation’s largest dozen metro areas. The ARC said that between May 2014 and May 2015 jobs grew here at a 3.2 percent pace, second only to the 3.4 percent expansion in metro Dallas.

“We’re seeing strong growth in multiple sectors, reflecting recovery across our broad-based economy,” said Mike Alexander, manager of research and analytics for the ARC. “Major companies such as Mercedes have chosen to move to Atlanta, a clear indication that this region is a place businesses want to be.”

Metro Atlanta added 79,600 jobs in the 12-month period. In raw numbers that was the fourth-largest gain behind the metro areas of Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.

Income growth continues to be a mixed bag: The ARC found that the fastest-growing employment sectors were leisure and hospitality, construction and professional and business services.

Six years after the end of the recession, the number of employed people in metro Atlanta has finally past the pre-recession peak. However, statewide employment is still shy of the late-2007 peak, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Moreover, Georgia’s jobless rate, due to be updated on Thursday, is 6.3 percent vs. 5.3 percent nationally.