Fewer babies, marriages in Ga.

Fewer Georgians are tying the knot and cutting the cord. And some say the national decline in marriages and births is a result of the economic woes.

Nationwide, 68,000 fewer babies were born in 2008, a decline of nearly two percent. In the U.S., 4,247,000 babies were born last year. In Georgia, 146,411 babies were born, down almost 1,000 — a drop of nearly one percent, according to numbers released by the National Center for Health Statistics.

One likely reason for the decline in maternity? The economy. The jobless rate nationally is 9.4 percent and hovers around 10 percent in Georgia.

With money tight, people are thinking twice about extra mouths to feed.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers for Georgia continue to decline,” says Carol Hogue, an Emory University professor of maternal and child health and epidemiology. “The rate may have lagged a bit because it took a little longer for the recession to hit Georgia.”

Births also declined during The Great Depression, Hogue said.

The numbers aren’t official yet, according to the those compiling the data. The state-by-state data is an early look, and does not yet include demographics.

Some Atlanta-area hospitals say they haven’t experienced a drop in babies birthed yet.

“Across our system, we have remained flat — no growth, no decline,” said Russ David, Northside Hospital spokesman.

At Grady Hospital in Atlanta, 625 fewer babies were born in 2008, according to spokesman Matt Gove.

“There’s no way for us to ascribe it to any one reason,” he said Friday.

But things maybe looking up. Through June, approximately 1,600 babies were born at Grady, compared with 3,193 in 2008.

“This year we’re on pace to have more than we had last year,” Gove said.

In separate but related data, the number of marriages in Georgia declined nearly 10 percent in 2008, compared to a nearly two percent decline nationally.

Linda Williams of Gainesville and her husband both work in the wedding business. She is professional violinist, and he’s a videographer.

The Williams’ saw a “huge drop-off” in the need for their services in 2008, sometimes going months between nuptials.

“I just thought people were saving money, trying not to spend as much on the receptions,” said Linda Williams, who performs as part of the Georgia String Ensemble. For four musicians to play during a wedding a ceremony, the cost is around $800, she said.

This year, the two have been busier. Williams plays at a wedding almost weekly.

“It’s starting to pickup,” Williams said.