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About


The Atlanta Fed's SouthPoint offers commentary and observations on various aspects of the region's economy.

The blog's authors include staff from the Atlanta Fed's Regional Economic Information Network and Public Affairs Department.

Postings are weekly.


July 29, 2013

Southeast Housing Update: Home Sales Growth, Prices Remain Positive; Inventory Shortages Persist

The Atlanta Fed’s monthly poll of regional brokers again indicates that home sales in June remained ahead of the year earlier level. Half of brokers reported that recent sales were in line with their expectations (see the chart).



Samplings of available Southeast Realtor group reports are not quite as positive as our contacts’ reports indicate (see the table); however, both sources confirm positive year-over-year growth.



A couple of brokers made an interesting observation: homes qualifying for 100 percent financing under programs such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Veterans Administration were selling quicker than most in their area, leading these brokers to infer that many potential buyers lacked available savings to invest in a home purchase requiring a sizable down payment.

Reports from southeastern builders also continued to indicate sales gains on a year-over-year basis in June (see the chart). Nearly two-thirds of builders indicated that activity was in line with their plan for the period. Similarly, builders indicated that new home construction activity was slightly ahead of the year-earlier level in June. Builders continued to note growing pressure on margins from rising labor and material costs. There were more reports from builders on labor shortages and the challenge to find qualified workers. Most indicated that labor costs were up between 1 percent and 5 percent on a year-over-year basis.



Inventories remain low

Low home inventories continued to be reported across the Southeast and were considered by many contacts to be restraining home sales. Most builders and brokers reported that home inventories in June were below the year-earlier level. Data from the National Association of Realtors on home inventories confirms falling inventories on a year-over-year basis throughout much of the Southeast (see the table).



Contacts continued to indicate that shortages of available homes for sale were a major factor in the continued rise in home prices. There were several reports from across the region of multiple offers on homes with some selling above list price. Most contacts reported that new and existing home prices were up slightly from a year earlier (see the chart).



The outlook among housing contacts remained mostly upbeat, although some noted concern over rising mortgage rates and the scarcity of new home lots. However, the outlook for sales over the next several months is a bit more positive compared with contacts’ year-earlier expectations (see the charts).





Note: June poll results are based on responses from 44 residential brokers and 25 homebuilders and were collected July 8–17, 2013. The housing poll's diffusion indexes are calculated as the percentage of total respondents reporting increases minus the percentage reporting declines. Positive values in the index indicate increased activity while negative values indicate decreased activity.

If you are a real estate broker or homebuilder and would like to participate in this poll, please send a note to RealEstateCenter@atl.frb.org.

Photo of Whitney MancusoBy Whitney Mancuso, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department


June 20, 2013

Rebuild and Reshape

Nearly eight years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast. Most of the city of New Orleans was flooded in its wake, and the loss of life and property was tremendous. Having lived through these events, I can look back at the last eight years and feel the pride at what my city has accomplished since Katrina.

New Orleans has rebuilt and continues to reshape itself. As reported in the University of New Orleans Metropolitan Report, the New Orleans metropolitan statistical area population has steadily increased to 89 percent of pre-Katrina levels, to approximately 1.2 million residents (see the chart). In addition, the New Orleans unemployment rate in first quarter 2013 was at 6.4 percent, well below the national average, with major employment gains across several sectors of the region’s economy.

Louisiana and New Orleans region have taken advantage of post-Katrina opportunities, spurring entrepreneurs and business incubators such as Idea Village and becoming a mecca for talented young people moving to the region with jobs trending toward information services. A recent Forbes article ranked New Orleans as the number-one “brain magnet” in the United States in February 2011.

New Orleans is known for many things, including an affordable cost of living, low operating costs for businesses, state tax credits for leading industries, and the quality of life that young entrepreneurs seek. NOLA (as it is called by locals) also leads the state in tourism, hosting national events such as the 2013 Super Bowl, the 2013 Woman’s Final Four, and the annual traditions of Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, which attract international crowds. Meanwhile, NOLA’s resurgence can be seen in rising commercial construction led by the robust biomedical industry, and urban renewal is driving residential development.

Louisiana and New Orleans have been very busy attaining accolades, and their growth and accomplishments contribute to the Southeast economy. Examples include:

  • April 2013: Bloomberg ranked New Orleans/Metairie/Kenner among the top 12 boomtowns in the country.
  • May 2013: Forbes ranked New Orleans the third-best city for the growth of information technology jobs (publishing, software, entertainment, data processing, and gaming).
  • May 2013: The Louisiana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Greater New Orleans Region was named the top SBDCs in the nation, earning the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SBDC Excellence and Innovation Award.
  • May 2013: The Southern U. S. Trade Association and World Trade Center in New Orleans ranked Louisiana the number-five export state in the nation.
  • May 2013: A survey in Chief Executive Magazine ranked Louisiana the 11th-best state for business.

While the memories and lessons of Hurricane Katrina remain prominent in our minds, we all can share in the pride as the region continues to build a promising future.

By Gail Psilos, a director of the Regional Economic Information Network in the Atlanta Fed’s New Orleans Branch

June 15, 2012

Capital expenditure plans for regional firms

We recently reached out to our regional business contacts to gauge their intentions regarding capital expenditures. The results of our regional survey showed that over half plan to increase capital spending over the next six to 12 months. Only 14 percent anticipate decreasing spending from current levels.


Of the businesses that planned to increase spending in the near term, high expected growth of sales and the need to replace information-technology equipment were the two most common factors driving their plans. Firms that commented in the "other factors" category cited expansions as reasons for increasing spending now. Decreased economic/financial uncertainty was the least cited factor.


Among the businesses that said they do not plan to increase spending in the near term, firms cited increased or high economic/financial uncertainty, limited need to replace capital goods, and low expected growth of sales as the major factors behind not increasing capital spending.


Indications are that the broader regional economy continues to grow at a modest pace, and the results from our recent capital expenditure poll appear to support that conclusion. Firms continue to invest, driven largely by expectations for improved sales. Those that have chosen to hold off noted that uncertainty is the main factor, so if the future becomes less cloudy we might expect further increases in capital spending.

Photo of Mike ChrisztBy Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department


April 4, 2012

More insights from the 2012 NABE Economic Policy Conference

Last week, SouthPoint primary blogger Mike Chriszt and I traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 2012 National Association of Business Economists' (NABE) Economic Policy Conference (see Mike's previous post). After a few words from Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, a flurry of breakout sessions ensued. One of the more positive ones I attended focused on state government finances.

Highlights of a regional economic update
Steve Cochrane of Moody's Analytics gave a regional economic update in this session, with his talk looking at the most recent regional data available through the lens of state government finances (a job growth forecast, for example, might hint at an increase in income tax collections). I was pleased, for at least two reasons, to see most of the Sixth Federal Reserve District's states in green, as the chart below shows, which indicates that job growth should be at or above the national average by the end of 2012, at least according to Moody's Analytics.

Employment Outlook for 2012

Another Moody's slide that may be of particular interest to SouthPoint readers is the one below, which shows that regional indexes measuring exports of goods and commodities were highest in the South at the end of last year. Of course, the chart reflects the Census Bureau's definition of the "South," which is not precisely the Sixth Federal Reserve District. Still, all Sixth District states are included in this aggregation.

Exports Still Rising in South and West

State government finances
The part of the session that honed in on state government finances was encouraging, but hinted it may not be time just yet to uncork the champagne bottles at governors' mansions just yet. Though state governments have definitely seen their coffers begin to recover in 2010 and 2011, the deep losses seen in 2008 and 2009 still make the four-year period a net loss.

For the most part, layoffs among state and local government positions are likely at their end, if not close, and that revenues are picking up nearly across the board. For example, according to a March 19 Rockefeller Institute report on state taxes, 41 states reported gains during the fourth quarter of 2011, while just 9 reported declines in overall tax collections for the quarter . One of those nine states still reporting declines in state revenues, Louisiana, lies within the Sixth Federal Reserve District.

Percent Change in State Tax Revenues, by Type

We also heard that states may be finding more creative ways to increase revenues. This sentiment is also reflected in a recent article in The Economist, which noted some significant budgetary changes the State of Georgia has made this session. They include:

  • Eliminating taxes on energy used in manufacturing
  • Taxing online sales in the state
  • Setting a goal to lower personal income tax from its current level of 6 percent to 4 percent by 2014 (to be slightly more competitive with neighbors Tennessee and Florida, who levy no personal income tax)

It will be interesting to see what other states are doing in creative ways to spur economic growth over the course of 2012, but that's another blog for another day.

Photo of Mark Carter By Mark Carter, a senior economic research analyst in the Atlanta Fed's Research Department

July 29, 2013

Southeast Housing Update: Home Sales Growth, Prices Remain Positive; Inventory Shortages Persist

The Atlanta Fed’s monthly poll of regional brokers again indicates that home sales in June remained ahead of the year earlier level. Half of brokers reported that recent sales were in line with their expectations (see the chart).



Samplings of available Southeast Realtor group reports are not quite as positive as our contacts’ reports indicate (see the table); however, both sources confirm positive year-over-year growth.



A couple of brokers made an interesting observation: homes qualifying for 100 percent financing under programs such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Veterans Administration were selling quicker than most in their area, leading these brokers to infer that many potential buyers lacked available savings to invest in a home purchase requiring a sizable down payment.

Reports from southeastern builders also continued to indicate sales gains on a year-over-year basis in June (see the chart). Nearly two-thirds of builders indicated that activity was in line with their plan for the period. Similarly, builders indicated that new home construction activity was slightly ahead of the year-earlier level in June. Builders continued to note growing pressure on margins from rising labor and material costs. There were more reports from builders on labor shortages and the challenge to find qualified workers. Most indicated that labor costs were up between 1 percent and 5 percent on a year-over-year basis.



Inventories remain low

Low home inventories continued to be reported across the Southeast and were considered by many contacts to be restraining home sales. Most builders and brokers reported that home inventories in June were below the year-earlier level. Data from the National Association of Realtors on home inventories confirms falling inventories on a year-over-year basis throughout much of the Southeast (see the table).



Contacts continued to indicate that shortages of available homes for sale were a major factor in the continued rise in home prices. There were several reports from across the region of multiple offers on homes with some selling above list price. Most contacts reported that new and existing home prices were up slightly from a year earlier (see the chart).



The outlook among housing contacts remained mostly upbeat, although some noted concern over rising mortgage rates and the scarcity of new home lots. However, the outlook for sales over the next several months is a bit more positive compared with contacts’ year-earlier expectations (see the charts).





Note: June poll results are based on responses from 44 residential brokers and 25 homebuilders and were collected July 8–17, 2013. The housing poll's diffusion indexes are calculated as the percentage of total respondents reporting increases minus the percentage reporting declines. Positive values in the index indicate increased activity while negative values indicate decreased activity.

If you are a real estate broker or homebuilder and would like to participate in this poll, please send a note to RealEstateCenter@atl.frb.org.

Photo of Whitney MancusoBy Whitney Mancuso, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department


June 20, 2013

Rebuild and Reshape

Nearly eight years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast. Most of the city of New Orleans was flooded in its wake, and the loss of life and property was tremendous. Having lived through these events, I can look back at the last eight years and feel the pride at what my city has accomplished since Katrina.

New Orleans has rebuilt and continues to reshape itself. As reported in the University of New Orleans Metropolitan Report, the New Orleans metropolitan statistical area population has steadily increased to 89 percent of pre-Katrina levels, to approximately 1.2 million residents (see the chart). In addition, the New Orleans unemployment rate in first quarter 2013 was at 6.4 percent, well below the national average, with major employment gains across several sectors of the region’s economy.

Louisiana and New Orleans region have taken advantage of post-Katrina opportunities, spurring entrepreneurs and business incubators such as Idea Village and becoming a mecca for talented young people moving to the region with jobs trending toward information services. A recent Forbes article ranked New Orleans as the number-one “brain magnet” in the United States in February 2011.

New Orleans is known for many things, including an affordable cost of living, low operating costs for businesses, state tax credits for leading industries, and the quality of life that young entrepreneurs seek. NOLA (as it is called by locals) also leads the state in tourism, hosting national events such as the 2013 Super Bowl, the 2013 Woman’s Final Four, and the annual traditions of Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, which attract international crowds. Meanwhile, NOLA’s resurgence can be seen in rising commercial construction led by the robust biomedical industry, and urban renewal is driving residential development.

Louisiana and New Orleans have been very busy attaining accolades, and their growth and accomplishments contribute to the Southeast economy. Examples include:

  • April 2013: Bloomberg ranked New Orleans/Metairie/Kenner among the top 12 boomtowns in the country.
  • May 2013: Forbes ranked New Orleans the third-best city for the growth of information technology jobs (publishing, software, entertainment, data processing, and gaming).
  • May 2013: The Louisiana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Greater New Orleans Region was named the top SBDCs in the nation, earning the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SBDC Excellence and Innovation Award.
  • May 2013: The Southern U. S. Trade Association and World Trade Center in New Orleans ranked Louisiana the number-five export state in the nation.
  • May 2013: A survey in Chief Executive Magazine ranked Louisiana the 11th-best state for business.

While the memories and lessons of Hurricane Katrina remain prominent in our minds, we all can share in the pride as the region continues to build a promising future.

By Gail Psilos, a director of the Regional Economic Information Network in the Atlanta Fed’s New Orleans Branch

June 15, 2012

Capital expenditure plans for regional firms

We recently reached out to our regional business contacts to gauge their intentions regarding capital expenditures. The results of our regional survey showed that over half plan to increase capital spending over the next six to 12 months. Only 14 percent anticipate decreasing spending from current levels.


Of the businesses that planned to increase spending in the near term, high expected growth of sales and the need to replace information-technology equipment were the two most common factors driving their plans. Firms that commented in the "other factors" category cited expansions as reasons for increasing spending now. Decreased economic/financial uncertainty was the least cited factor.


Among the businesses that said they do not plan to increase spending in the near term, firms cited increased or high economic/financial uncertainty, limited need to replace capital goods, and low expected growth of sales as the major factors behind not increasing capital spending.


Indications are that the broader regional economy continues to grow at a modest pace, and the results from our recent capital expenditure poll appear to support that conclusion. Firms continue to invest, driven largely by expectations for improved sales. Those that have chosen to hold off noted that uncertainty is the main factor, so if the future becomes less cloudy we might expect further increases in capital spending.

Photo of Mike ChrisztBy Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department


April 4, 2012

More insights from the 2012 NABE Economic Policy Conference

Last week, SouthPoint primary blogger Mike Chriszt and I traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 2012 National Association of Business Economists' (NABE) Economic Policy Conference (see Mike's previous post). After a few words from Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, a flurry of breakout sessions ensued. One of the more positive ones I attended focused on state government finances.

Highlights of a regional economic update
Steve Cochrane of Moody's Analytics gave a regional economic update in this session, with his talk looking at the most recent regional data available through the lens of state government finances (a job growth forecast, for example, might hint at an increase in income tax collections). I was pleased, for at least two reasons, to see most of the Sixth Federal Reserve District's states in green, as the chart below shows, which indicates that job growth should be at or above the national average by the end of 2012, at least according to Moody's Analytics.

Employment Outlook for 2012

Another Moody's slide that may be of particular interest to SouthPoint readers is the one below, which shows that regional indexes measuring exports of goods and commodities were highest in the South at the end of last year. Of course, the chart reflects the Census Bureau's definition of the "South," which is not precisely the Sixth Federal Reserve District. Still, all Sixth District states are included in this aggregation.

Exports Still Rising in South and West

State government finances
The part of the session that honed in on state government finances was encouraging, but hinted it may not be time just yet to uncork the champagne bottles at governors' mansions just yet. Though state governments have definitely seen their coffers begin to recover in 2010 and 2011, the deep losses seen in 2008 and 2009 still make the four-year period a net loss.

For the most part, layoffs among state and local government positions are likely at their end, if not close, and that revenues are picking up nearly across the board. For example, according to a March 19 Rockefeller Institute report on state taxes, 41 states reported gains during the fourth quarter of 2011, while just 9 reported declines in overall tax collections for the quarter . One of those nine states still reporting declines in state revenues, Louisiana, lies within the Sixth Federal Reserve District.

Percent Change in State Tax Revenues, by Type

We also heard that states may be finding more creative ways to increase revenues. This sentiment is also reflected in a recent article in The Economist, which noted some significant budgetary changes the State of Georgia has made this session. They include:

  • Eliminating taxes on energy used in manufacturing
  • Taxing online sales in the state
  • Setting a goal to lower personal income tax from its current level of 6 percent to 4 percent by 2014 (to be slightly more competitive with neighbors Tennessee and Florida, who levy no personal income tax)

It will be interesting to see what other states are doing in creative ways to spur economic growth over the course of 2012, but that's another blog for another day.

Photo of Mark Carter By Mark Carter, a senior economic research analyst in the Atlanta Fed's Research Department