Lockhart Discusses Southeastern Economic Growth and Workforce Pressures

For immediate release: August 25, 2007

BILOXI, Miss.—In remarks at the Southern Governors Association's annual meeting, Dennis P. Lockhart described the importance of education and retraining to make workers resilient to competitive pressures in a global economy. Lockhart, the president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, spoke at a session on regional economic trends, which included remarks by two other Federal Reserve Bank presidents.

Lockhart described the Sixth Federal Reserve District as an economic microcosm of the nation overall. He noted that the emergence of vehicle parts and manufacturing facilities, along with growth in service industries, has helped to compensate for weaknesses in the region such as manufacturing job losses in recent decades. "Hiring has been strong in health care, education, tourism, and some other professions," he said.

Lockhart said the impact of globalization and technology on workers in the region is an important issue. Rapid economic changes have contributed to "workforce anxiety—something frequently voiced in public discourse." At the same time, he noted the Southeast has done well in developing promising new industries such as biotechnology and medical research. "These are the types of jobs where technology tends to complement performance—adding value instead of acting as a labor substitute."

The rapid pace of economic change is challenging to workers who must adapt and to policymakers who seek to attract business investment. According to Lockhart, an important policy question is how "states encourage development of workers with high aptitude and, therefore, help provide a highly adaptable workforce." In his view, "those involved in promoting economic development at the state level should apply policies aimed at achieving a resilient workforce characterized by well-developed vocational aptitudes built on foundation skills, especially a capacity to learn new things throughout a career."

"In the diverse Southeast economy—with the pressure of globalization and technological change—the required skill set will change constantly," he said.

A transcript of Lockhart's remarks is available on the Atlanta Fed Web site.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta serves the Sixth Federal Reserve District, which encompasses Alabama, Florida, Georgia and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. As part of the nation's central banking system, the Atlanta Fed participates in setting national monetary policy, supervises numerous commercial banks and provides a variety of financial services to depository institutions and the U.S. government.

Contact: Jean Tate 404-498-8035