How’s metro Atlanta’s economy doing?

That’s a complicated question. First of all, the region’s economy is diverse, and it’s big: If it were a country, it would rank somewhere between Norway and the United Arab Emirates, two oil-rich countries.

And while we’re still in recovery mode from the financial crisis, the stock market has been on a wild, bumpy ride of late, and everyone from economists to politicians are scouring the data for signs that another slowdown might be on the horizon.

All that said, there are numbers we can dig into, courtesy of the data experts at the Atlanta Regional Commission, who recently took a deep dive into the region’s economy in their 2019 Economic Snapshot. We’ll hit the highlights here; if you’d like a closer look, check it out here on the 33n blog.

And a quick note on sourcing: Data analysis is from the Atlanta Regional Commission. Data sources include Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Case-Schiller Home Price Index.

Atlanta Region’s Economy Continues to Grow

The size of metro Atlanta’s economy – its gross domestic product, or GDP – hit $334.5 billion in 2017. That ranks us 10th in the U.S., just above Seattle and a notch below Boston.

The region’s economy has grown by a sizable 24% since 2010, when we began to crawl out of the Great Recession.

Job Growth Remains Strong … but the Rate is Slowing

First, the good news: Metro Atlanta continues to be a national leader in job growth. Year-over-year growth is at 2.4%, ranking sixth among the 12 largest metro areas.

But a closer look shows that the rate of job growth has slowed in the Atlanta region. In fact, that growth is now just a shade higher than that of the U.S. as a whole.

The situation is certainly nothing to panic about. Companies are still regularly announcing job expansions in the region. But it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Chart: Annual Job Growth – 12 Largest Metro Areas

Houston 4.3%
Seattle 3.7%
Phoenix 3.6%
Dallas 3%
Charlotte 2.7%
Atlanta 2.4%
Denver 2.4%
San Francisco 2.1%
Boston 2%
Wash, D.C. 2%
Minneapolis 1.7%
U.S. average 1.7%
Chicago 0.6%

Wages are on the Rise, but Growth Remains Sluggish

As with jobs, wages are another a good-news/bad-news situation. The average earnings per job in metro Atlanta have been on the rise since 2008-09, when they hit a low point during the height of the recession.

And now for the “but” part of this analysis. Before the economic crash, average pay in the ATL used to far outstrip the U.S. average. That flipped during the recession, and although the gap has narrowed in recent years, it stubbornly persists.

And finally, wages have largely stagnated: When you factor in inflation, job earnings today on average are about what they were way back in 1998. As a result, many families struggle to pay for things like housing and health care, which have seen dramatic cost increases over that two-decade period.

Home Prices have Recovered and Remain Cheaper than Other Big Metro Areas

The recession wrecked the Atlanta region’s housing market, causing prices to plunge between 2008 and 2012.

It took nearly a decade, but average prices have finally exceeded pre-recession levels. And metro Atlanta remains a relatively affordable region. Home prices that remain well below the average for the nation’s 20-largest regions, a list that includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas.

Data analysis for this article by the Atlanta Regional Commission. Data sources include Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and Case-Schiller Home Price Index.

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.