ATLANTA, Ga. -- Economist Marci Rossell offered hard truths today about metro Atlanta's economy.
Atlanta is at a "real crossroads," she said, as the region continues to recover slowly from the Great Recession.
"Recessions favor the strong but can really be tough if you find yourself weak," she said.
"If you look at activity across the board, prices, anything, and then look at Atlanta, you guys are pretty much where you were in the late 90s. You've kind of had a little bit of a lost decade."
The former chief economist for CNBC made the comments to a group of more than 400 real estate professionals attending the CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Atlanta & Corenet Global Atlanta Chapter meeting. Rossell went on to point out that U.S. home prices are still about 50 percent higher than they were in 2000, but the same can't be said about Atlanta.
"Even with the big run-up and the big decline in prices, you still see appreciation at a national level," she said. "That's not the case locally."
Rossell was making her fourth appearance at the event, and she echoed the concern she expressed about the region's economy last year when she said Atlanta's business and political leadership had to adapt.
Cities such as Houston and Miami have found success targeting business opportunities with Latin America. As China's population continues to grow wealthier, it also becomes an even better target for more U.S. export-related business, she said.
In Atlanta, jobs sectors rebounding the fastest have included professional business
services and health care, Rossell said.
In fact, by the third quarter of last year, professional and business services had gained back the thousands of jobs it lost since the recession began. Atlanta's rapidly growing technology companies had ignited much of the sector's recovery. That's important because professional and business services is the region's second-largest employment sector.
Other drivers of the metro Atlanta economy in recent years, however, including construction and financial services, have yet to bounce back.