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Analysis: Local economy solid mostly due to tourism
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The Savannah area’s economy continued to grow in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Armstrong Atlantic State University’s latest Coastal Empire Economic Monitor.

"While the relatively slow nature of that growth dampened some of the third-quarter buoyancy, record tourism and strengthening housing market activity powered the economy along as the year closed," says a spokesperson.

"Overall, the Coastal Empire economic index capped off the end of last year with fourth-quarter improvements, and the region is poised to see this continued upswing in economic activity in 2013."

“The tourism industry was responsible for much of the upward lift in the economy, otherwise boosting modest gains and offsetting lackluster activity elsewhere,” explained Michael Toma, director of the Center for Regional Analysis and Armstrong’s Fuller E. Callaway professorial chair and the brains behind the AASU quarterly economic monitor. “This is further evidence that our regional economy enjoys an enviable foundation in the form of a well diversified structure that affords insulation against weakness in any given sector.”

Highlights of the increases include:

— Tourism gave the index its biggest boost, buttressed by modest growth in employment and retail and electricity sales.

— Tourism tax revenue hit an all-time high in the last quarter of 2012—hotel and motel tax receipts rose to a total of $1.3 million per month, a gain of 11 percent over the previous quarter and 14.3 percent over the last quarter of 2011.

— The fourth quarter gains offset flat performance by the ports.

— The December jobs figure—155,000—was the highest level of recorded employment in the last four years, despite slower hiring at the end of the year.

— The seasonally adjusted number of new residential home permits closed the year out 40 percent higher than the data from one year ago.

— For all of 2012, housing permits were the highest they have been in the area since 2008 and 21 percent higher than 2011.