Opinion: Study and act on economy’s boosters

With a catfight over federal tax reform now occupying much of the national mind-space given to dollars-and-sense matters, it’s refreshing to take a look at America’s numbers game from the standpoint of economists — not politicians.

Economics is called the Dismal Science for good reason — it’s not light work. But we all know it’s important stuff — our wallets and bank accounts tell us so. And few, if any, practitioners in this numbers-heavy profession can weave relevant data into an understandable, even entertaining, presentation better than our own Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.

Dhawan’s quarterly economic forecasts provide a useful underpinning for assessing what various sectors and factions are doing to affect economic growth for better, or worse. Government policies factor into this, as do actions by private-sector businesses.

Georgia, and metro Atlanta especially, benefit greatly from a business community whose leaders, in addition to running job-creating enterprises, have long stepped up when it counts to push for public policies that help keep this region humming. We didn’t get as far as we’ve come by standing still, or planting our heads in the sand.

Today, we present thoughts by a pair of local business leaders on ways to boost prosperity by improving Pre-K education and broadly increasing economic mobility. Their thoughts deserve consideration by the Georgia General Assembly, and even Congress.

We should always keep looking for such ways to enhance Georgia’s already estimable standing among national, and global, economic powerhouses. Yet we should not forget, as Dhawan points out in his economic forecasts, that our economic recovery continues, albeit with some hiccups.

He wrote that, in Georgia, “the rate of employment gains has slowed, as the economy created only 66,400 jobs in the first nine months of 2017. We expect job creation will total 87,800 by the end of the year 2017 … .” “This represents a growth rate of 2.4 percent, less than the 2.8 percent gain in 2016.” Unemployment rates for the state and Atlanta for 2017 and beyond are projected to remain better than in 2016.

Looking deeper into the stats, Dhawan notes that Georgia’s film industry is deserving of its widespread praise. Our Hollywood South “brought more than $2.7 billion worth of direct spending to the state in fiscal year 2017, which was a 34 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.” In an interesting aside, the film industry seems to be fueling growth in tech jobs, as recording, editing and animation work heads here. “Employment in Georgia’s information sector increased by 2,300 positions in the first nine months of this year, which is a 180-degree turn from a contraction of 1,700 jobs in the same period last year.”

Dhawan’s forecast even added thoughts into the pool of guesses over where Amazon will locate its second headquarters. Dhawan believes an ITP location, especially Midtown, stands the best chance. The “biggest question we have is where is the workforce? The workforce Amazon is looking for is mostly centered in the Midtown/Atlantic Station area.” Time will tell, but we’re glad metro Atlanta apparently remains a solid contender for this prize.

We’re also encouraged by Dhawan’s projection that metro Atlanta and the state are likely to see increases in employment and personal income in 2018 and 2019. Against a national backdrop of negativity, we’ll take all the good predictions that we can get.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

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