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Economist says West beats East for overall economy

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By Matthew Clark
mclark@scbiznews.com
Published Dec. 1, 2015

In terms of which part of the country is faring better economically, economist Bruce Yandle said the West is beating the East.

Yandle, dean emeritus of the Clemson University School of Business and Behavioral Science said states in the Southwest, anchored by Texas, saw a higher increase in gross domestic product in 2014 than states east of the Mississippi River.

“A quick glance tells us that west of the Mississippi looks much better than does the eastern U.S.,” Yandle said in his quarterly economic commentary from the Strom Thurmond Institute.

South Carolina experienced 2.2% growth in GDP over the year, while North Carolina grew by 1.4% and Georgia was up by 2.3%. Texas, on the other hand, had GDP growth of more than 5%. Regionally, the Southeast — West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — had GDP growth of 1.7% compared with the Southwest’s 4.3% growth. The Southwest region includes Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. The Plains — Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota — had the weakest GDP growth at 1.3%.

From March 2014 to March 2015, South Carolina experienced job growth of over 1%, along with most of the country. Only West Virginia saw a decrease in employment for all industries. Regionally, states along the West Coast and Texas experienced between 1.2% and 2.7% job growth.

“The western U.S. continues to show the greater regional strength,” Yandle said.

South Carolina, Georgia and Florida did see slight 0.2%-1.0% increases in wages from March 2014 to March 2015. Alabama and North Carolina had more than 1% increases in wages across all industries. California, North Dakota, Minnesota and Massachusetts all had the largest increase in wages while Nevada and Delaware actually had a decrease in the average weekly wage.

Yandle said urban growth continues to be a driver of the “new economy” as metropolitan areas across the country experienced job growth upwards of 5% from 2009 to 2013. The Interstate-85 corridor from Atlanta to Raleigh that includes the Upstate experienced strong job growth during that period. The largest growth was concentrated around Virginia, as well as between Dallas, Austin and Houston in Texas.

The Southeast has also seen unemployment rates cut in half from 2010 to October 2015. In South Carolina, unemployment ran between 10% and 12% in 2010, but Yandle reported a drop to between 5.0% and 5.9% in October 2015. Yandle pointed out states with a focus on energy and grain production, what he calls square states, have been able to keep up with other, more industrial states, in unemployment decreases.

“They were hustling along nicely even during those tough times,” Yandle said.

A big part of that, he said, could be due to educational attainment.

“Those square states and their neighbors are characterized by an unusually high share of the adult population with a high school diploma or more education,” Yandle said. “They have lots of the ultimate resource: Human beings with human capital.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at 864-235-5677, ext. 107, or @matthewclark76 on Twitter.

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