Dr. Phil Pepper is the state economist for Mississippi and assistant commissioner of research and planning for the State Institutions of Higher Learning.
The Daily Journal asked Pepper last about his outlook for the state and national economy, which has been in a recession since December 2007.
Q: What do you make of the mixed signals we’re getting on the economy? Are we seeing light at the end of the tunnel?
A: People had been saying for the past six months or so that there would be improvement by the end of the year.
But now what I’ve seen the last two months is that it’s basically the same information, but instead the language has changed and they’re now saying the economy isn’t contracting as fast. So really, the change has been in the way they’re saying it.
Stocks have been going up, retail sales are not going so well … I think we’re poised for growth at the end of the year or early next year but it will be very slow.
Q: So you do see a recovery on the horizon?
A: When we do recover, it will be painfully slow. But we won’t see the amount of growth in Mississippi that we saw from 2003 to 2007. There are fewer jobs and less money to spend now.
Our revenue shortfall is more than we expected, and we’re not quite sure why that is.
As for the overall economy, I think we’re still going down and we haven’t hit bottom yet.
Q: Are there particular areas posed for growth, even in the middle of a recession?
A: I think in Mississippi, it will happen first in the urban areas. It’s in the rural areas with less education that are falling farther behind.