EDITORIAL: The recession

Unemployment information for Mississippi for April, released Wednesday, included a five-year chart showing how abruptly Northeast Mississippi’s counties soared from mostly mid-single digit joblessness to low-double digit rates generally higher than the state and U.S. averages.
Unemployment in the 16-county Northeast region stood at 10.4 percent in April, higher than the 8.6 percent statewide and nationwide rates.
Still, some counties showed slightly lower joblessness in April, an encouraging sign.
Five years ago, none of the region’s counties had double-digit unemployment, and most figures were in the 4 percent to 6 percent range.
The recession is a reminder that strong economic situations never can be taken for granted.
Since April 2008, unemployment in what the Mississippi Department of Employment Security defines as the Mississippi Partnership Workforce Development Area (27 counties, including all of the Northeast Mississippi region) has climbed from 6.1 percent to 10 percent.
The recession has spurred additional serious and on-going analysis of the regional workforce’s resilience, strength, and vulnerabilities. Honest appraisal will become a positive factor in the long term because it helps guide professional economic developers, civic leaders, and elected officials in developing strategies to offset weaknesses.
On Wednesday, a survey released by the National Association of Business Economists suggests the recession could end in the third quarter (July, August, September) this year, but with a more modest rebound than in previous recoveries.
In the survey, 74 percent of the economists believe the recession, which began in December 2007, will end in the third quarter of this year. Another 19 percent say the recession will end in the fourth quarter while 7 percent believe it won’t be over until 2010.
The economists predict a 1.2 percent growth for the second half of the year, and they forecast a net economic contraction for all of 2009 of 2.8 percent. Perhaps most heartening, none of the economists in the survey believed the recession would last longer than the first quarter of 2010.
Reuters also reported that economic data have suggested that the “intensity of the housing-led downturn was starting to ease as some of the government’s record $787 billion package … started to filter through the economy.”
We believe even modest optimism fuels confidence, which positively affects recovery and prosperity.
Neither our region nor the nation is out of the woods, but when experts who should know good signs on sight report them, it’s worth taking note.

NEMS Daily Journal

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