Ports Help Georgia Avoid Deeper Slump; A Forecast from Georgia State University Is a Bit Better for the Coast

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Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

ATLANTA - The state's economic slump isn't likely to turn around any time soon, though Georgia's port cities could see less pain than others, according to a new report from Georgia State University economists.

Savannah's job growth will likely be 0.8 percent in 2008 and 0.7 percent in 2009, according to the university's Economic Forecasting Center. But it will be spared the job losses expected to be seen across the state.

"Military and metro areas around ports are expected to fare better than others, including Savannah, Gainesville and Warner Robins," said the report, written primarily by Rajeev Dhawan, the center's director.

A weak U.S. dollar has boosted the ports' export business, Dhawan said. Robert Morris, a spokesman for the Georgia Ports Authority, agreed.

"We have seen a strong surge in our export total numbers. ... The export market is very strong, but we've always had a strong export market in Georgia," he said

But Morris also said job growth in the port industries is beginning to slow down.

In the second quarter of 2008, employment in the metro Savannah area was up 0.4 percent from a year ago, with much of the growth coming with 920 jobs in transportation and utilities, 400 retail jobs and 270 in the education and health sectors.

Even the slower growth projected for the second half of the year, though, is better than the decline in jobs Dhawan calls for across the state. By the time 2008 is done, he predicts, the state will have shed 35,300 jobs and will lose another 2,600 jobs in 2009. …