Southeast Economy Improving

September 10, 2013

jobsThe Southeast economy continued along a path of modest growth in July, according to the latest Data Digest. The monthly report, compiled by the Atlanta Fed's Regional Economic Information Network (REIN), provides state-level data and analysis on the regional economy.

The labor market has improved steadily but slowly since the recession ended. Payroll employment has continued to grow, but the gains have not been evenly dispersed geographically or across sectors. Georgia and Florida, for example, have seen a large share of recent job gains. Meanwhile, payrolls in Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama declined in July. A handful of sectors are leading employment growth, including leisure and hospitality, education and health care, and professional and business services.

The region's manufacturing activity slowed for the third consecutive month in July, according to the Southeast Purchasing Managers Index. With a reading of 50.2, the index was just barely in expansionary territory. (An index reading of 50 or higher is consistent with an expansion.) The Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana components of the index were significantly higher than the regional reading.

The residential real estate sector continued to be a bright spot in the Southeast economy. House prices rose across much of the region in the second quarter on a year-over-year basis, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index. Alabama and Mississippi were the exceptions—home prices there declined 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, during the same period.

The Atlanta Fed's monthly Real Estate and Construction Survey reflected the ongoing improvement in housing. Residential brokers and builders reported stronger sales and rising home prices in July compared to year-ago levels. Across much of the region, both brokers and builders continued to report lower inventories, too.

For more data and analysis on the Southeast economy, see the latest edition of Data Digest.