Augusta’s Economic Growth Below State Average, Cyber Boom Still Ahead
The residents of Fortune Magazine‘s dark horse pick for the new cyber capital of the world might have to wait awhile before the results of such an economic boom become evident in data.
A new labor market index conducted by Simon Medcalfe, an economics professor at Augusta University’s Hull College of Business, shows that while Augusta has seen some growth in local jobs over the last few months, growth has been flat over the last year. The city is just below average in labor market growth compared to 12 other metro areas in Georgia.
“A lot of things are happening in Augusta right now, but they’re not actually coming through in the data yet,” Medcalfe said.
The markets included in the index are Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Brunswick, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Hinesville, Macon, Rome, Savannah, Valdosta and Warner Robbins.
Among those cities, Augusta ranked ninth in labor market growth from December 2016 to June 2017.
The state’s fastest-growing metro areas from December 2016 to June 2017 were Athens and Savannah, which saw employment growth of 4,800 and 3,800, respectively. During that same period, employment remained flat in Augusta, dropping from 237,600 to 237,500.
Over the last few months, however, the number of local jobs has grown. There was an increase of 2,600 local jobs in July, and around 1,000 more were added in August. Unemployment has also declined from 5.3 percent to 4.6 percent since December.
Medcalfe said he has yet to see the social buzz around the city’s new identity as a cyber hub show up in labor market data. And what that data will look like, he said, is anyone’s guess.
“I don’t think we have a handle on how many private companies and jobs that the Cyber Command will bring,” Medcalfe said.
There are some signs of that growth, including an increase in government jobs. According to Medcalfe’s research, industries that saw the most growth in the first six months of 2017 were government, leisure and hospitality and education and health.
Medcalfe also predicted consistent growth over the next six months of the year. The Augusta Leading Economic Index, which he uses more as a predictor of future trends, measured a 1.5 percent annual market growth. That is the year’s highest single-month increase, which was largely due to 530 new housing units in July authorized by building permits.
“There is a lot of talk about the exciting economic future for Augusta in the local community and some of that may just now be visible in the data,” Medcalfe wrote in the index report.