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IHL: Slow job growth forecast for Miss.

Mississippi’s recovery from the recession will be slow with overall employment not reaching the state’s record – set in 2000 – until 2015, according to an economic forecast.

A study by the state Institutions of Higher Learning predicts an average annual employment growth rate of 1.5 percent annually from 2011 through 2015, only slightly below the national forecast of 1.7 percent recently issued by IHS Global Insight.

Still, the depth of the economic meltdown has Mississippi five years away from reaching its previous employment record of 1,153,600, the report said. Between the October 2008 collapse and September 2010, the state lost 119,500 jobs.

“Before the latest recession, we had not returned to 2000 levels,” said Marianne Hill, senior economist for the IHL. “We had been hit for a loop by the recession of 2001. We were just getting back to 2000 employment levels when we were hit by this recession.”

Several factors will drag the recovery, including lower population and labor force growth, a larger-than-average government sector and smaller-than-average health care and business-professional sectors that are being counted on in the U.S. for strong recovery,” IHL said.

“The state’s recovery may lag that of the nation as a whole to some extent,” the study said.

Among the forecasts:

– In the service-providing sector, the biggest gainers from 2011 through 2015 will be business-professional services and health care-social assistance with average job growth rates of 2.7 percent and 2.3 percent, followed by transportation-utilities, each with 2.2 percent rates.

– Construction will lead the goods-producing sector with annual employment increases of 2.2 percent – but still will not reach its pre-recession jobs level until 2015. Mining, which includes the petroleum industry, will come in under 1 percent each year and will not reach its pre-recession level.

Manufacturing will grow by an average 1.8 percent annual clip, but will wait until 2015 to see its pre-recession level. About 14 percent of all Mississippi jobs are in manufacturing, compared with 9 percent in the United States.

But IHL sees no reversal of the national trend of fewer manufacturing jobs. Mississippi has lost 19,600 manufacturing positions since October 2008. Nationwide, manufacturing plants are becoming more machine-intensive, requiring fewer workers, Hill said.

“Even with new and expanded manufacturing facilities opening in the state, the percentage of total employment in this sector is expected to continue its long-run decline,” the forecast said.

– Other segments that will fail to reach pre-recession employment levels by 2015 include hospitality-leisure – which encompasses tourism and casinos – and finance, the report said. Both of those segments are projected to have annual job growth rates of less than 1 percent.


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