Report: Macon’s economy to grow among slowest in U.S.

mstucka@macon.comJune 23, 2014 

Through the end of this decade, metro Macon could have one of the slowest-growing economies in the nation, a report suggests.

The report, released last week for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, puts Macon’s annual economic growth rate at 1.7 percent, placing it 347th of 363 metro areas in the nation. Most of the other slow-growing communities are in upstate New York.

The forecast projects metro Warner Robins to grow at an annual rate of 2.2 percent, ranking it No. 267 and leaving it in the bottom third of communities.

Greg George, director of Middle Georgia State College’s Center for Economic Analysis, said those forecasts sound about right.

“As always, Georgia lags behind the nation, and Middle Georgia lags behind the state,” he said Monday.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert was returning from the conference in Dallas on Monday and was not available for comment, his spokesman said.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors report also suggests metro Warner Robins will reach its pre-recession level of employment in the next few months, after having lost about 500 jobs. Metro Macon lost about 8,100 jobs and won’t return to the same level until the end of 2016, the report suggests.

The report was prepared by IHS Global Insight and was released Friday.

Metropolitan Warner Robins includes Houston, Peach and Pulaski counties. Metropolitan Macon includes Bibb, Crawford, Jones, Monroe and Twiggs counties.

Even with the subpar growth rates, metro Macon’s economy is expected to add $868 million between 2013 and 2020, according to data released to The Telegraph by an author of the study. Metro Warner Robins’ economy, which is smaller, will grow by $795 million in the same time period.

The report also predicts that metro Warner Robins’ unemployment rate will be 5.2 percent at the end of 2016, putting it in the middle of the pack of cities.

Macon’s unemployment rate is forecast to be 6.1 percent, placing it high in the bottom quarter of cities. That would still boast one of the best percentage improvements in the country from 2012, the report shows.

George said Warner Robins workers typically have more education and training than their Macon peers.

“Macon suffers with a lot of social problems,” George said. “It has issues with education and poverty. All of those things keep it lagging behind other places until it does a better job addressing those issues,” he said.

But Macon does have a number of well-educated people, who face a much lower unemployment rate than poorly educated people, George said. There is a disproportionate number of poorly educated people that’s been affecting the economy for years.

“When you talk about Macon getting back to pre-recession unemployment levels, we were still high then,” George said. “Let’s not go out and throw a parade.”

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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