3Qs: Marianne Hill, IHL senior economist

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

Marianne Hill is the senior economist for the Center for Policy Research and Planning for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.
Last month, she authored a report about the state’s slow economy and its impact on employment. She noted Mississippi’s employment this summer hit its lowest level since 1996. She also said employment levels statewide aren’t expected to regain 2007 levels until 2018.
Tuesday’s unemployment report for October showed a slight improvement from September, as well as from a year ago.
Daily Journal Business Editor Dennis Seid interviewed Hill about the unemployment numbers and the economy.

Q. What do you make of the most recent unemployment numbers?
A. There are a few ways to look at it.
There were more employed, which is very good, and it’s not simply due to people dropping out of looking for jobs.
I also looked at the figures from a year ago, and one of the big changes is manufacturing employment versus last year has increased 2 percent. That’s good.
Leisure and hospitality and health care also were up.
One area of concern is that business and professional services did not do as well as last year, although it was higher than September.

Q. What is your take on the fiscal cliff and the discussions going on in Washington?
A. It’s not good for investor confidence to put off or delay a solution.
Tax rates in and of itself seem to be high enough, especially if you look at income taxes. But there are so many loopholes and deductions that make the effective tax rate less. There are many things to improve the effective tax rate without raising the tax rates on paper.
That seems to me a better idea.

Q. Do you think Gov. Phil Bryant’s initiative to increase employment in the health care sector is a good idea?
A. Yes, it’s a growing sector. …We have a growing aging population and we’ll see healthy growth there.
The new health care law also will increase access to health care.