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Economist Donald Ratacjzak optimistic about 2014 outlook

Metro Atlanta’s economy expected to improve in coming year

Economist Donald Ratajczak gives an annual address Tuesday to the Council for Quality Growth. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

Economist Donald Ratajczak gives an annual address Tuesday to the Council for Quality Growth. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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Economist Donald Ratajczak gives an annual address Tuesday to the Council for Quality Growth. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

Donald Ratajczak has helped Gwinnett’s development community predict the economy for 21 years. And the last half-decade hasn’t been so pleasant.

But on Tuesday the retired Georgia State University economist was positive that the Atlanta area will have something to celebrate in 2014.

“It does appear that the worst … is slowly passing us,” Ratajczak said of the lingering impact of the Great Recession, which left housing prices down, developers going bankrupt and people losing their homes.

Housing prices have been on the rise for 18 months, he said, with many people finally having equity.

“The housing sector isn’t cured, but it’s definitely improving,” he said during a speech to the Council for Quality Growth Tuesday.

Ratajczak expects mortgage rates to tick up in 2014, but to remain low. Consumer activity is increasing, he said, while inflation remains low.

And the November jobs report was the kind he liked to hear, he added.

“I’m not talking about a boom year, but I am talking about some improvement in the consumer activity,” Ratajczak said, adding that he expected the economy to improve to 3 percent growth by the second quarter of next year.

Business, though, are still slow to hire and expand, he noted, blaming much of the issue on Washington.

“There’s not a lot of desire to expand. … They have the money; they don’t have the will to invest at the present time, and they don’t want to hire,” he said, adding that the Federal Reserve’s decisions likely depend on Capitol Hill and another possible shutdown. “It’s basically the feeling that the government isn’t working. As a result, people lost their reading of the future. They felt that the future is dimmer than the present. That is un-American.”

Still, he expects the politicians to forge another agreement and the economy to continue its improvement. And Ratacjzak said Atlanta is well-positioned to attract companies when expansions do begin.

“It’s good news,” said Gwinnett Commissioner Jace Brooks, a financial planner who liked Ratajczak’s prediction for the stock market as well as the expected rise in property taxes. “I think for Gwinnett County it’s great news. We continue to focus on jobs and economic development, so we should get our share.”