OUR OPINION: Mississippi gains parallel some pesky negative facts

By NEMS Daily Journal

Northeast Mississippi’s slowly declining unemployment rate (three months in a row below 10 percent for the first time since 2008) is in some ways typical of our state’s slower-than-the-nation recovery from a recession, but nationwide statistics support guarded optimism.
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, whose economic analyses are widely followed, released numbers Thursday showing continuing expansion of key indicators.
Its website publication, National Economic Trends, showed slight but positive movement in real GDP growth so far this year, rising industrial production, steady low interest rates on Treasury investments, declining unemployment, and rising nonfarm payrolls.
The bank’s positions are non-partisan and reflect political influence only in the way politics affects the larger economy.
Stronger numbers nationwide, it is hoped, mean Mississippi-specific statistics like declining unemployment will continue for the longer term even if some variation shows up because of seasonal changes.
As Business Editor Dennis Seid and press services reported, until February, Northeast Mississippi had been weighted with double-digit unemployment 36 of the past 37 months. The April 8.6 percent jobless rate was the lowest since November 2008.
A Chase analysis from the private sector forecasts growth in Mississippi’s GDP to $89 billion in 2012, up $1 billion over 2011.
The regional analysis issued in March also forecasts:
* Mississippi’s economy is expected to speed up in 2012.
* The firming manufacturing sector is a new plus for the state.
* Business conditions continue to recover in the Southeast.
* Layoffs are coming down.
* The lights are coming back on in Mississippi’s economy.
* The job market probably will continue to improve into 2012.
Other, less positive facts also emerged earlier this month, and despite our state’s progress, the need to measure ourselves by how our neighbors are achieving is important.
In April, for example despite employment gains, Mississippi still had the highest unemployment rate measured against contiguous states: 8.7 percent compared to 7.2 percent in Alabama and Arkansas, 7.1 percent in Louisiana, and 7.8 percent in Tennessee.
Mississippi, like some other Deep South states, must keep striving to return to and then exceed employment levels attained before the recession began in 2007. Mississippi is 5.9 percent below that figure; Alabama is 7 percent below.
Mississippi and Arkansas are the two states with declines in employment from April 2011 to April 2012, the nonpartisan Mississippi Economic Policy Center reports.
Everyone has more work ahead.