The Southeast economy in 2010 was marked by strength in some areas and continued weakness in others, with more of the same expected for 2011. "The Southeast in 2011," which appears in the fourth-quarter issue of EconSouth, highlights the opportunities and challenges awaiting the region's economy in the coming year.
The southeastern states of Louisiana and Alabama saw strong job growth in the first three quarters of 2010, gaining 39 percent and 18 percent, respectively, of jobs lost in 2009. Louisiana has the region's lowest unemployment rate, while the job gains in Alabama are helping the state's fiscal situation—its projected state budget shortfall is the smallest in the region.
Manufacturing is also performing well in the Southeast economy. In Tennessee, Volkswagen will begin production at its newest auto plant in 2011. Construction on another new plant, this one for the batteries that will power the Nissan LEAF electric car, broke ground in May 2010. Next door, the Nissan vehicle assembly plant is undergoing an upgrade to accommodate production of the LEAF, which will start rolling off the assembly line in 2012. The state's green technology sector has added hundreds of solar manufacturing jobs. Green industries are taking hold in other southeastern states, including Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which will welcome three new biofuel plants over the next few years.
The ailing real estate market has been a dark cloud over much of the Southeast economy. Florida's real estate market was especially hard hit, but it has also bounced back the strongest. Total residential sales through most of 2010 reached 71 percent of their peak in 2005. Georgia has seen its share of real estate problems, which have hurt its banking sector. The state has the nation's most bank failures since the crisis began.
For more information on the southeastern economy in 2010, see the full story in the fourth-quarter issue of EconSouth, available in print or online.