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Report finds mixed economic numbers

STARKVILLE — Both the Mississippi Index of Coincident Indicators and the Mississippi Index of Leading Indicators rose in October relative to September, according to the State Institution of Higher Learning’s (IHL’s) December “Mississippi Economic Review and Outlook.”

In both cases, the increase was modest. Digging into the details show the economic data is mixed, IHL reports.

Recent Mississippi employment data show an increase in most sectors. But this may reflect problems with adjusting for seasonality rather than an expanding employment base. On the other hand the national employment figures are starting to look much less negative and initial unemployment claims for Mississippi have fallen in recent months, suggesting the employment outlook might actually be improving.

Withholdings continue to show a downward trend and retail sales are anemic. The GDP figures for the third quarter were revised downward and some expect further downward revisions.

The national housing sector has shown some positive trends in recent months.

Manufacturing activity remains positive, although it did moderate in October.

Early indications are that the Christmas shopping will not be strong.

Such a diversity of signals is expected as an economy slowly begins to recover from a deep recession. The economy clearly remains weak and is vulnerable to further shocks. Consumers, in particular remain fearful, of the future. This is not helped by the uncertainty surrounding large ticket legislation such as cap and trade and healthcare reform. The mounting debt levels and the certainty of rising taxes have both consumers and business leaders hesitant to spend. The new found fiscal restraint may not help measures of economic activity, but, after years of living off of credit, may be the best course of action for consumers, business leaders and the long-run health of the economy.

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