ARC predicts growth will slow over 30 years

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Atlanta Regional Commission on Wednesday predicted that growth in both population and jobs in metro Atlanta will slow over the next 30 years.

But the state and federally mandated planning organization for the 20-county metro Atlanta region also said that both growth measures will continue on a strong pace in the region, with approximately 3 million more people and 1.6 million more jobs added by the year 2040.

"The Atlanta region has been one of the fastest growing areas in the United States for decades," Mike Alexander, ARC's Research Division Chief, said. "And while the kind of growth experienced in the past can't be maintained forever, metro Atlanta will continue to outpace most other parts of the country."

According to the ARC's new forecast, slower growth in population and employment is likely to be the norm across the country. It attributed this to the average size of families shrinking combined with the decrease in the number of baby boomers expected over the next 30 years.

"It's clear that natural attrition will play a large part in moderating the Atlanta Region's growth," ARC spokesman Jim Jaquish said in a news release.

Regarding population growth, ARC predicts that metro Atlanta will add almost 100,000 people each year from 2010-20, roughly 92,000 each year between 2020-30 and approximately 88,000 annually between 2030 and 2040.

So far this decade, the region has seen an average growth of 121,000 people per year, making it the second-fastest-growing metro area in the country, behind only Dallas.

When it comes to employment, ARC projects strong job growth in the region between now and 2040.

"Employment growth won't skyrocket as it did in the 1990s, when the region added almost 86,000 jobs each year, but it will recover and metro Atlanta will again be a destination for job seekers," Alexander said.

ARC estimates the region will add approximately 60,500 jobs each year from 2010-20, more than 53,000 annually from 2020-30 and almost 64,000 each year from 2030-40.

The group referred to the current decade as the "lost decade," citing the loss of 10,000 jobs each year.

It also said that future job growth should occur in high-paying sectors, such as health care, professional services, scientific and technical areas.

ARC noted that during the current economic slowdown, the region not only lost thousands of jobs, but gained lower-paying ones in sectors like retail, food and recreation.

In fact, from 2006 through 2008, the 20-county metro area gained 23,599 low-paying jobs and lost 1,655 high-paying jobs.

Jaquish said specific data as it pertains to the counties it serves should be available in about three months. He also said all of the agency's ensuing plans for transportation, land use, aging services and workforce development will be based on these new forecasts.