published Friday, February 25th, 2011

Commission predicts rapid growth for metro Atlanta

ATLANTA — Atlanta's 20-county metropolitan region will add 3 million people and 1.5 million jobs by 2040, the Atlanta Regional Commission predicts.

Metro Atlanta's population will grow to 8.3 million by 2040, up by more than 50 percent from its current level, the commission's chief researcher, Mike Alexander, said Wednesday.

Alexander's report will be used by local governments to plan road and transit networks.

The survey tries to account for economic downturns and other eventualities. Metro Atlanta faces a possible drastic reduction in water withdrawals from Lake Lanier and the possibility voters won't approve a transportation referendum.

"We will have fundamental demographic changes where there will be a lot more people who aren't working," Alexander said. "Basically, the labor force as a share of population is expected to shrink."

The study shows a surge in retirees will keep the labor pool down and help keep the unemployment rate below its current 10.2 percent for the region.

By 2030, one of every five metro Atlantans will be aged 60 or older, requiring more nurses, doctors, technicians and bill coders.

Fulton County will have more than 1 million workers, or 28 percent of jobs across the region, the projection shows. Clayton County's growth is expected to be the smallest in the region.

That's just the projection," said Eldrin Bell, chairman of the Clayton County's commission. "We have the space and the land mass, including the airport, to out-distance the current projections. The airport has the potential to change all the projections for the south side."

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