We land at the largest airport in the world
I suspect that most British people, pushed to name the largest airport in the world, would not know that it is Atlanta. The latest data shows 95 million passenger movements in 2012, compared with Beijing’s 82 million and Heathrow’s 70 million. Atlanta has been the world’s busiest airport by passenger movements since 1998 and by plane movements since 2005. It has 5 runways compared with Heathrow’s two and very uncertain third. I certainly didn’t know that Atlanta airport was so large but was tempted to check out its size when the shuttle bus taking Ianthe and me to my hotel last night took about 25 minutes and was still going past the airport.
One of the secrets of the US’s recent economic success is that it combines the first world and third world in the same land mass. In the South wages are low and unionisation fairly non-existent but there is still access to the US’s world leading technology.
Georgia has massive population growth – the population today is approximately 10 million whereas in 1960 it was only 4 million. The 2.4% per annum population growth translates into a rapidly growing labour force which in turn holds wages down. The minimum wage is only $5.15 – the lowest in the US – though the median household income is only about 5.8% below the national average. Easy hiring and relatively cheap labour mean that many businesses are headquartered here in Atlanta. Most famously Coca Cola, but also Delta Airlines, UPS and CNN.
The area was badly hit by the recession – house prices in Atlanta fell by nearly 30% during the downturn – but have jumped up by 20% in the past 12 months.
The official forecasts for 2013 show Georgia’s economic growth outperforming the rest of the US by 0.3-0.5%. But the likely rapid labour force growth in the coming years should cause this to accelerate. It’s pretty clear from here that the epicentre of the US economy is drifting south.
Douglas McWilliams, Cebr Chairman
For other updates in Doug’s US series, please see: