Dr. Jeffrey M. Humphreys, director of economic forecasting for the Selig Cnter for Economic Growth At UGA
Dr. Jeffrey M. Humphreys

Expect a strong Georgia economy in 2015, according to the director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

“The economy looks to be in very good shape,” Dr. Jeffrey Humphreys told members of the Buckhead Business Association on Dec. 4.

Humphreys, who directs a UGA center that researches economic, demographic and social issues related to the state’s growth, said the state’s economy appears to have rebounded from the recent recession.

“We’re going to have an above average year for the first time in a long time,” Humphreys said. “Perhaps the old normal is the new normal.”

Humphreys predicted job growth of 2.3 percent in Georgia during 2015, compared to 2 percent this year, and projected the state’s unemployment rate to fall by a percentage point, to 6.9 percent from 7.9 percent. He also predicted faster salary growth in 2015.

“Why am I optimistic? First, we’re seeing a manufacturing renaissance,” he said. “It’s not huge, but it’s there.”

He said the housing market also appears to be recovering from the recession. Home prices, he said, have not fully recovered from the drop a few years ago, but “the upturn in housing, it’s real. .. It’s broadly based. People are buying houses to actually live in them, as opposed to renting them out.”

Humphreys did identify three “headwinds” that could slow growth. He said the state’s economy could be hurt by a lack of access to capital to support entrepreneurs; a reduction in federal spending, particularly on the military; and the change in federal monetary policy that is expected to raise interest rates.

He said the state needed to improve the education of its workforce and predicted a renewal of immigration into the state from other areas. He said state-to-state migration “has turned negative for Georgia for the first time in my working life.”

“We’ve seen a huge drop in net migration into the state,” he said. “Next year, I expect 1 percent population growth. That’s not stellar, but it’s better than the U.S. [as a whole].”

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