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Atlanta works to recover from housing bust

Rich Sullivan and friend Shannon Alexander share company at a Decatur, Georgia coffee shop.  Both are hunting for work, and remain optimistic they'll find a job in the Atlanta region. 

President Obama continues a campaign-style tour today following his State of the Union address that focused largely on plans to grow the economy. The president was in North Carolina yesterday, and today's he's in Atlanta -- one of the centers of the housing boom that suffered mightly from the crash.

Many who once prospered in the city are finding it tough to rebound.

"The middle class [are] my people, ya know?” says Rich Sullivan, a popular Atlanta radio DJ who was laid off when his station changed format last November.  

He says the last three months are the longest he's been out of work in his life.  

Sullivan is among Atlanta's 8.4 percent who also find themselves searching for work. The area's unemployment rate flirted with 11 percent a few years ago. It's slowly going down, although it remains higher than the national average.

Georgia State University economist Rajeev Dhawan says Atlanta’s crash was deep because the area's housing stock grew too fast during the boom:

“We were adding 80,000 housing units," says Dhawan. "It should’ve been only 20,000 housing units.”

When the housing bubble burst, it lead to massive foreclosures and deeply-depressed values. That picture’s starting to brighten, says Atlanta Board of Realtors president Nancy See.

“We have seen prices coming back, and sales increasing," she says, noting that foreclosures are at a six-year low. 

Companies are expanding, development is starting to pick back up, and Atlantans hope the worst is finally behind them.

About the author

Jim Burress is a reporter for WABE in Atlanta.

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