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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.

The Gulf oil spill: Measuring the impact on tourism

In the weeks following the Gulf oil spill, we counted the number of people employed in sectors most vulnerable to a decline in vacationers. In a macroblog posting back in May, we looked at Bureau of Economic Analysis data and developed a conservative estimate of roughly 123,000 workers, based on the total number of individuals employed in arts, entertainment, and recreation as well as accommodation and food services for Gulf Coast metro areas from western Louisiana to Panama City. Since then, we have been patiently waiting for official employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on state and local employment. On July 20, we will see revised data for May and the first release of data for June.

To further help us understand the impact on tourism, we have also been talking to our contacts in the region as well as tuning into what travel industry experts have been reporting. Last week, Hotel News Now reported on how late-spring and early-summer bookings held up better than expected in most places, but advance reservations were declining significantly for Gulf Coast hotels. Our business contacts in the area also report similar experiences. Part of the decline in vacationers is being offset by an increase in bookings by officials and crews that are migrating to the Gulf to plan and assist in the cleanup. Those reports lead us to believe that the employment impact in the tourism-related sectors of the economy may not be readily seen for some time.

We will continue to watch this important industry as well as the entire region as the oil spill continues.

By Michael Chriszt, an assistant vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department