Economic Slowdown in Mississippi

By: Mike McDaniel
By: Mike McDaniel

The road to economic recovery in Mississippi doesn't come without a speed bump and federal numbers now show how much of a bump there is. In 2011, Mississippi's economy came up in the negative, decreasing by 0.8 percent. Only five other states showed a decrease as well with Mississippi performing worse than all of them, except one.

For senior economist Marianna Hill, with the State College Board, those numbers are a little surprising.

"I knew that we were flirting with recession but even with those numbers, it's still not clear that we actually went into recession," said Hill.

The state's gross domestic product, or GDP, sank to just more than $84 billion last year, which is a few billion below where the state was in 2007, at just more than $87 billion. Mississippi even had the lowest per capita economic output at just more than $28,000 per person, compared to a national average of about $42,000.

Hill says the lack of employment growth in early 2011 was an indication of a weaker than expected economy.

"We still haven't seen much employment growth this year compared to last, so that we're still in a period for very slow growth," said Hill.

Hill says two major factors play a role in the overall decrease. The first was the drying up of federal stimulus dollars through government spending. The other was impacts from natural disasters on the state's number one industry, agriculture.

"Over half of the counties in the state were declared federal disaster areas last year either due to flooding or the drought," said Hill.

The overall numbers may not be favorable, but Hill says other numbers are. Currently, tax collection revenues are up by almost 6 percent, compared to this time last year.

"There are a variety of numbers that indicate things are getting better," said Hill. "It is a very slow pace."

In addition to higher tax collections this year, there's also an upturn in housing and construction permits which is an indication for growth. But when it comes to employment numbers, the state has lost about 400 jobs. That's what economists call an unbalanced recovery.

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