OUR OPINION: Economic news is subdued, sobering

By NEMS Daily Journal

Economic news and forecasts for Mississippi this week are best described as subdued, nothing more alarming than the lingering, debilitating downturn, paralleled by minimal encouragement about growth, especially compared to the rest of the nation.
One of the more encouraging reports found that all 16 Northeast Mississippi counties’ unemployment rates dropped during August. Still, at 10.9 percent, it was higher than the statewide 10 percent average.
State Economist Darrin Webb, in testimony during the joint legislative budget committee hearings, said the Japanese earthquake, fighting over the federal debt ceiling, and rising oil prices all dealt blows to Mississippi’s recovery attempts.
In addition, Webb said our state has not fully recovered from the spring tornadoes in Northeast Mississippi and widespread Mississippi River flooding in Delta counties.
Webb’s forecast was for Mississippi’s economy to grow 1 percent in 2011 and 1.7 percent in 2012. The 20-year average is 2.7 percent.
The greater concern – one that candidates in both political parties must carry with them as the 2012 legislative session approaches – is the loss of about 70,000 jobs in the private and public sectors.
The employment issue is nonpartisan; the recession did not play political favorites. Not only did jobs disappear, but so did whole businesses. Democrats, Republicans and independents all suffered the effects of lost businesses, lost wages and lost profits.
While some states have moved forward and even experienced the beginning of an economic recovery, nine states and the District of Columbia are still dealing with uncharacteristically high unemployment, the news blog Huffington Post reported Wednesday:
“The states with the highest unemployment rates have a few things in common. … Many of these states have economies that are dependent on manufacturing.”
Mississippi, which is heavily dependent on manufacturing, especially in our region, is in the list that includes Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Michigan, South Carolina, California and Nevada.
Mississippi, like the others, would prefer to be in the same economy because of prosperity, not recession or slow recovery.
The independent Mississippi Economic Review and Outlook, a think-tank product of the Institutions of Higher Learning, may have the most sobering commentary:
“The best that can be said about the economy is it is treading water. Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter was a meager 1.3 percent over the first. We have not yet sunk into a recession, but the risk of doing so is substantial. … Mississippi is facing the same scenario – painfully slow growth with a rising threat of recession.”
Our economy will profit nothing from attempted political exploitation of these facts.