Latest economic report signifies gains and losses in key Savannah industries


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A recent economic report finds the economy of Savannah Metropolitan Area decreased slightly in the last quarter of 2019.

The report from Georgia Southern University’s Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research measured data from the largest industries in the area and created an index to determine overall growth.

Overall, strength in the labor market kept the index higher. Uncertainty in the housing market, however, restricted major increases in the index.

The Port of Savannah, although greatly impacted by Chinese tariffs, signaled prolonged growth in the coming months.

Here’s a more extensive look into the different findings of the latest Economic Monitor.

Port of Savannah

The port is now the third largest in the country for container handling, behind the Port of New York and New Jersey, and the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

U.S. exports to China through the Ports of Savannah and Brunswick declined approximately 33%, following a national decrease caused by Chinese tariffs.

The number of shipping containers handled at the Port of Savannah is 7% higher than year-ago figures, but 7% lower than the previous quarter of 2019.

Employment trends

Total employment in the metro area was 185,500 jobs, a gain of 200 from the previous quarter.

The goods-producing side of the Savannah metro economy continues to add 200 to 300 new jobs per quarter.

Since the start of 2017, the sector added 2,400 well-paid jobs, setting a new record high for the second consecutive quarter.

Manufacturing has 19,200 workers, which is the highest in nearly 50 years. Employment in construction was stable at approximately 8,700 workers for the third consecutive quarter. 

Hourly wages in the private sector declined to $22.36 from $22.59 in the previous quarter. The length of the workweek held steady at 33.2 hours. 


After adjusting for seasonality, boardings at the airport increased 1.5% and automobile rentals increased 6%.

Hotel and motel tax receipts, however, were down 2% and the number of participants on organized tours declined 11%. Alcohol sales taxes also fell 0.5%.

Total employment in the leisure and hospitality sector stands at 26,400, among the largest of the area’s major economic sectors.

Forecasting Index

The Savannah area business forecasting increased, but deceleration continued for the second consecutive quarter.

The index increased 0.6% after registering 3.1% annualized growth in the first quarter. The labor market continues to show strength while housing market indicators were mixed. 

In the labor market, the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) dropped 20% to 405 from 504 in the previous quarter.

UI claims are less than expected given the size of the regional workforce, and are 21% lower than one year ago. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell half of a percentage point to 3.3% from 3.8%. 


Building permits issued increased 12% to 540 units from 481 units. However, average valuation per single-family unit decreased 14% to $232,900 from $270,300.

This is not unexpected because the first quarter 2019-average was inflated by issuance of permits for high-end developments.

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