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State Economist Tells Lawmakers To Expect Slow Growth

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 19 Jan 2012 01:53pm | comments
State economist darrin webb.

Mississippi law makers will have slightly more money to spend as they craft the state's budget for the next fiscal year. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the state's economy appears to be slowly recovering from the deep recession.

Anxious lawmakers filled a meeting room at the capitol to hear an update on the direction of the state's economy from state economist Darrin Webb.

Webb addressed the group and presented a series of detailed graphs, explaining that while the economy is recovering it will be years before employment and yearly growth return to pre-recession levels.

"We had a pretty strong fourth quarter. It looks like the economy grew stronger in the fourth quarter than it did in any quarter in 2011. But we do think that the economy will slow in the coming months. We think some of things driving the growth in fourth quarter are going to wane," Webb said.

Webb says the economic recovery varies across the state with 46 of the state's 82 counties losing jobs over the last two years.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves says the projection means law makers need to be thinking ahead while writing the budget.

"Employment levels will not get back to 2008 levels in Mississippi until out until 2016. It stands to reason that if our employment levels don't get back to those levels, without significant per capita income growth, our revenues will not get back to 2008 levels for three or four years," Reeves said.

Still, Lawmakers are expected to have slightly more money to spend on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July first, than they did for the current budget.

House speaker Phillip Gunn says lawmakers will still need to be frugal but sees reason for hope.

"I think it shows us that we have reason to be cautiously optimistic. The economy seems to have stabilized is the impression I get. We are not growing at a high rate but it doesn't look like we are going down either. So my hope is that the economy has stabilized and we can begin to see some modest growth," Gunn said.

The State economist says even if the national economy heats up, growth in Mississippi could still be held back by systemic problems like poor public health and low levels of educational attainment.





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