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Report: Mississippi’s economy was in recession in 2013 and 2014

Associated Press

 Tepid growth in jobs, income and certain taxes had suggested Mississippi’s economy wasn’t growing very fast in recent years. But new figures released Wednesday by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis show the state’s economy was actually in recession in 2013 and 2014.

The numbers show Mississippi’s economy shrank by 1.2 percent in 2014, the only state besides Alaska where economic output got smaller last year. Earlier estimates of 1.6 percent growth in 2013 were also revised downward and now show a 1.1 percent contraction for that year.

State economist Darrin Webb had predicted 1.3 percent growth for 2014, but he said Wednesday that he had factored in the possibility of a slight decline in output in 2014. He had not been looking for a large decline in the federal gross domestic product numbers, which seek to measure all the economic output of each state.

“I was shocked, very surprised by it,” Webb said. “What’s different is the magnitude of these trends. This is a significant contraction.”

Nationwide, the economy grew at 2.2 percent. Some states grew much faster, including North Dakota, where the tail end of an oil boom boosted output by a national best of 6.4 percent.

The weakness was widespread in Mississippi’s $105 billion economy, with 12 of the 21 economic sectors measured showing declines. Construction alone accounted for more than half the decline, which Webb attributed to a decline in the workforce building Mississippi Power Co.’s $6.2 billion plant in Kemper County. Other major contributors to the decline included agriculture and forestry, government, oil and gas production and utilities.

The brightest spot was manufacturing. The value of output expanded for both makers of long-lasting goods such as machinery, vehicles and furniture, as well as for makers of nondurable goods such as food, gasoline and chemicals.

The revised numbers for 2013 show a strong contraction in refining of petroleum and coal products, which was big enough alone to push Mississippi into recession for that year. Chevron Corp. runs a large refinery in Pascagoula and Ergon runs a smaller one in Vicksburg. Refining can be very volatile from year to year, with wide swings in the value of products.

Mississippi retained the lowest per-capita gross domestic product of any state — $31,551.

Webb said he’s currently revising his growth predictions for 2015, which he most recently forecast at 1.4 percent for Mississippi. Webb said some sectors in Mississippi are picking up, but said the state needs a strong national economy to induce growth.

“If the national economy is barely growing, we’re going to be barely growing or in recession,” Webb said.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, seeking re-election this year, has touted his economic record. That’s even though Mississippi retains the second-highest unemployment level in the nation and has 3 percent fewer payroll jobs than in 2008.

“By the BEA’s own admission, these figures are based on incomplete data and calculations,” Bryant spokeswoman Nicole Webb wrote in an email Wednesday. “It is very likely the figures will be revised in the future. Furthermore, Mississippi’s GDP is still larger than it was in 2009 and is still in excess of $100 billion. Unemployment is 6.6% — lower than it has been in years. Governor Bryant has a laser focus on economic development, and Mississippi has added more than 32,000 jobs since he took office.”


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