SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As we enter the third year of living with COVID-19, the local economy is now fully recovered from the plunge caused by the pandemic, according to a new report.
The latest Economic Monitor from Georgia Southern University shows the Savannah area is exceeding pre-pandemic levels of revenue and employment.
“It’s been a pretty remarkable recovery,” said economics professor Michael Toma. “The economy through much of 2021 has just been roaring back.”
While variants and surges of COVID-19 can temporarily stall economic growth, Toma predicts the economy won’t completely crash again.
“The worst of the pandemic most likely is behind us, in terms of its economic effects,” he said. “We saw how harsh that was in the second and third quarter of 2020. We’ve been living with delta and the emerging omicron basically since the middle of last year and the economy has still been roaring back.”
While the economy has more than recovered, wage growth is sluggish, a trend Toma said remains unexplained.
Business and professional services is the fastest growing industry, the report said. Toma explained the economy had to restructure when people lost their jobs, resulting in a 20% increase in this sector.
Toma also said the port is an “economic jewel” for the city and state, which will aid in its growth over the next 5-10 years. Land and commercial development will also continue to strengthen the economy in the coming years, Toma said.
What’s typically the largest industry is lagging behind still. The hospitality sector is still building back job losses and lost revenue due to the lack of business travel. Toma expects it to be fully recovered by the end of 2022.
“Tourism is sort of like an added bonus so to speak, that’s the icing on the cake,” he said. “It will continue to recover slowly over the course of the year, it’s just for us it’s going to be the difference between a good year and a really good year.”
Toma said the economy is on track to see above-normal growth, but local businesses will likely continue to face labor shortages.
“That is going to be a continuing issue throughout 2022 and it will be a challenge to modify practices, or develop new recruiting strategies or do what’s needed to attract the labor that employers are going to need,” he said.