December 18, 2013
Economic activity in the Southeast grew moderately in October, according to the latest edition of Data Digest. As has been the case throughout the recovery, the region's economy progressed at a slower pace than the nation, although Florida has been an exception recently. The state's economic performance has outpaced the United States as a whole since August, according to the Philadelphia Fed's coincident index.
The state-by-state report, produced monthly by the Atlanta Fed's Regional Economic Information Network (REIN), paints a mixed picture of labor markets. Slow and steady employment gains have been spread unevenly across the region and across industries. The leisure and hospitality and business services sectors have bounced back the most since the recession; the government sector continued to shed jobs in some states. Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana reported unemployment rates below the national average of 7.3 percent in October while the jobless rate in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi remained above the U.S. level.
Data Digest also noted improvements in southeastern manufacturing activity and mixed progress in the real estate sector. House prices gained across portions of the Southeast in the third quarter, according to the FHFA Home Price Index. Florida reported the strongest gains, with a year-over-year increase of 8.4 percent. Home prices also advanced in Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee. Alabama and Mississippi reported flat or falling home prices during the same period.
Across much of the region, permits for new home construction remained near historic lows, although Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee saw increases in October. During the same period, residential builders and brokers in the region reported that sales were ahead of the year-ago level. Brokers, however, noted a slowdown in sales and lower inventories than a year ago. Builder reports on inventory levels were mixed. Both builders and brokers indicated home price appreciation in October but noted that buyer traffic has dropped sharply in recent months. The outlook among builders and brokers for the next several months is slightly positive, yet weaker than it was a year ago.
To read more about the Southeast economy, see the latest edition of Data Digest.