Economic Outlook

The outlook is mixed for Mississippi's economy. The state's chief economist says the road to recovery will be long.

Dr. Darrin Webb was the guest speaker for Business Before Hours Tuesday in Meridian. He says 2012 was the first year that Mississippi experienced growth since the recession. He's now projecting continued growth for this year.

"Let's talk about jobs; most sectors did grow in 2012. The data was just revised and we actually grew about 1%," said Webb. "It's really across the board. Now, we're not back to where we were before the recession. That's why I think a lot of people say it doesn't feel like we're recovering and we're not recovered. But we are recovering. We're seeing gradual improvement."

Webb said one specific area of growth involves wages.

"A lot of businesses got very lean during the recession. They increased productivity. They invested in their businesses. And so those workers that they have are worth more and so they're getting a little bit better wages," said Webb.

For the end of last year and the first part of this year, Mississippi experienced seven consecutive months of economic growth. However, Dr. Webb says there are signs that the growth is slowing.

"We're thinking that we're sort of slowing just a little bit as we go into the second quarter," Webb said. "I mean, we you look at the national level. We only gained 88,000 jobs in March and that's probably your best indicator of where we see that slow down."

Meanwhile, the head of the East Mississippi Development Corporation says there are increasing signs of promise for the creation of more jobs in Lauderdale County.

"In 2012 we saw three times the number of inquiries for manufacturing than we did in the previous year. And we're seeing that same steady growth in 2013. Inquiries are where you start," said Wade Jones.

Jones is optimistic that this increase in inquiries will soon lead to an increase in the number of available jobs.

Nationally, the projection for growth this year is 2%. That's slightly less than last year. Webb says sequestration and the expiration of the payroll tax cut are two reasons for the anticipated decline in growth.

As for recovery from the recession, numbers from the Mississippi University Research Center, Incorporated show that Mississippi's economy is 98.9% restored to the level that it was prior to the recession. Alabama is lagging more in this area at 91.8%. The restoration rate for Louisiana is 99.7%. This is followed by Georgia at 97% and Florida at 91%.