The U.S. economy continues to expand and looks to be on sound footing for growth in 2014. Mississippis economy is also growing, though more modestly. Risk of another recession is relatively low and gradual improvement is expected through 2016. South Mississippis performance, especially the Coast counties, has trailed much of the state.
These are among the bullet points from reports made at the University of Southern Mississippi College of Businesss 2014 Economic Outlook conference held Jan. 23 at the Thad Cochran Center.
Dr. Darren Webb, Mississippi State economist and director of the University Research Center, presented a summary of his legislative economic briefing, tracking national and statewide trends.
Consumer spending produced a surprisingly strong third quarter of 2013, although that spending slowed in Q4 due to inventory corrections and the government shutdown, among other reasons, Webb explained.
Since 2010. the United States has added an average of 182,000 jobs each month. Employment in Mississippi has improved since 2012 but probably wont reach the pre-recession peak of February 2008 until sometime in 2015, Webb projected.
Mississippi added an average of 18,818 jobs in 2013 over 2012 and those jobs were primarily in professional services, construction and leisure and hospitality sectors. Manufacturing and other services sectors lost jobs during the year.
Twenty nine Mississippi counties saw a growth of less than 150 jobs in 2013, 24 counties saw an increase of more than 150 jobs, and 29 counties (including Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties in South Mississippi) saw a decline in jobs last year.
Webb noted that Mississippis slow jobs growth rate over the past decade is unlike previous trends, and that is because of the reduction of low skill manufacturing jobs which have been outsourced overseas and wont be back.
While building permits across the state are improving very gradually, construction employment saw a dramatic increase in 2013, but Webb cautioned that much of that growth is attributed to construction projects like Mississippi Power Co.s $5 billion Kemper County plant and Chevrons $1.4 billion expansion in Jackson County. Many of those jobs are held by residents of other states and those jobs will disappear when construction is complete.
While unemployment rates have declined, year-over-year growth in Mississippis real personal income (less transfer payments) has not grown, thus holding back consumer spending.
Robert Strand, senior economist for the American Bankers Association, provided another overview of the nations economic picture and noted that, while the U.S. GDP, productivity and other indicators have grown steadily over the past three years, growth will continue to be tempered by concerns about the rising federal debt, interest rates, income inequality, global demand, and the costs and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Southern Miss and sponsor The First are to be congratulated for this excellent Economic Impact series, and we hope the annual conference will continue. It has been a real asset to South Mississippis business leaders.
Speaking of business leaders, stop what youre doing and go to SunHerald.info/hall_of_fame to make your nominations for South Mississippis top community and business leaders.