April 26, 2013
The Southeast economy improved steadily in the first few months of 2013, according to the latest issue of the Atlanta Fed's Data Digest. The state-by-state report highlights modest gains in the region's labor and housing markets, as well as manufacturing activity.
Although jobless rates across parts of the Southeast remained above the national average of 7.7 percent in February, total employment in the region has trended upward. Progress remains uneven, however. Employment levels in Louisiana are approaching their all-time high, while states such as Georgia and Florida have improved at a slower pace. Initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, widely seen as a leading labor market indicator, have trended downward or flattened in several southeastern states.
The region also saw its manufacturing activity strengthen in January and February, according to the Southeast Purchasing Managers Index (PMI). The regional measure, published monthly by Kennesaw State University, was 54.7 in February. A reading of 50 or higher is consistent with an expansion.
Real estate markets also strengthened in late 2012 and early 2013, the report notes. House prices have stabilized across most of the region and are increasing in some markets. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Fed's March survey of southeastern homebuilders and residential brokers highlights improvements in the industry. According to the survey, new home construction has trended up in many states, although it remains historically low. Buyers and brokers also reported stronger sales and declining inventories from year-ago levels.
To read more about recent trends in the Southeast economy, be sure to check out the full Data Digest.