By TED CARTER
Not far removed from negative growth in 2013 and zero growth in 2014, Mississippi’s economy grew by an estimated 1 percent in 2015, economists with the Mississippi Research Center report.
Even that slight amount of growth surprised state economists who looked at third quarter growth and projected a rise of only a half percentage point, according to the Mississippi Economic Outlook’s Winter 2016 report.
“This assessment represents a considerable increase from the estimate of the previous quarter, as real GDP was projected to rise by 0.5 percent,” the report said, attributing the improved outlook to better- than-expected Magnolia State income growth of 3 percent in the latest estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The Bureau in the previous quarter had estimated income growth of 2.7 percent for the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, state economists are sticking with their projections for 2.2 percent economic growth in 2016, a rate that would be a marked improvement over state real GDP going back to 2009. Mississippi’s economy grew in only two of the last six years, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. If the full percent increase for 2015 is realized, it would mark the first expansion for Mississippi since 2012.
“Moreover, the forecast for growth of 1 percent in 2015 and 2.2 percent in 2016 would result in the first consecutive years of growth in the state’s economy since 2007 and 2008,” the Mississippi Economic Outlook report said, and noted Mississippi’s annual real GDP (a figure adjusted for inflation and pricing) has exceeded 2 percent in only five years since 2000.
In a separate report, the February edition of Mississippi’s Business, state economists say the state’s economy continues to show some relative strength despite weaknesses in the U.S. manufacturing sector.
Some of that strength could be regional.
Factory activity in the Southeast continues to operate at a much higher growth rate than the national, which is currently contracting, said a report on January manufacturing purchases in the Southeast compiled by Kennesaw State University’s Econometric Center.
The report noted increases in orders and production above the average of the previous six months. The report looked at activity in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee.
If the state does achieve the forecast 1 percent growth for 2015, the growth will have come despite contractions in the fourth quarter of four of six major job sectors.
The largest growth in jobs is projected for the Natural Resources and Mining sector at 23 percent – a substantial increase from the third quarter forecast of 6.8 percent.
That sector’s job growth is forecast to fizzle in 2016 and 2017, dropping by 9.6 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
Construction is forecast to be the top job creation sector in both 2016 and 2017 with growth of 4 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.
In addition to Natural Resources and Mining, sectors forecast to lose jobs in 2017 are Finance, Insurance, Real Estate and Educational Services.
Look for personal income to show a rise of 3 percent for 2015 and a jump of 3.5 percent in 2016 and 4.5 percent in 2017, the Outlook report said.
As Mississippi completes the final five years of the decade, its real GDP is projected to grow 2.2 percent annually – a more than five-fold increase from the annual average of 2010-2015.
However, jobs are forecast to grow only 1 percent annually through the next five years, according to the Economic Outlook report. Nationally, annual job growth for the same period is forecast to be 1.3 percent.
Mississippi closed 2015 with a rise in its jobless numbers to 6.4 percent from November’s 6 percent, the U.S. Department of Labor reported. December’s poor jobs report tied Mississippi for the third-highest jobless rate among the states.
The Labor Department said the nearly 6,000 jobs lost in December pushed up the number of unemployed people statewide to almost 83,000.
However, a separate survey shows Mississippi payrolls rose slightly in December compared to last December, coming in 10,000 higher than the same month the previous year, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
The nation’s unemployment rate ended the year at 5 percent.
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