Participants in the biannual Economic Outlook Forum at Millsaps College on Tuesday said they see more of the same ahead: marginal growth.
The forecasts came from state economist Darrin Webb and Patrick Newport of HIS Global Insight, who led the discussion at the forum, which is held twice a year.
Newport was in charge of the national outlook.
He explained that in 2015 the U.S. economy experienced relatively faster growth, but that was the exception, not the rule. Current projections have the U.S. GDP capping at $5.3 billion current dollars in the third quarter of 2016, he said. And though personal income is expected to rise, that trajectory is unlikely to last.
“By historical standards, we are not doing that well,” Newport said. “The United States has experienced three quarters of weak growth.”
Newport went on to say that despite this, the U.S. economy remains an envy in the world due to the dynamic changes through innovation it undergoes.
“Compared to the stagnation in the European Union, we are not doing that bad,” he said.
The forecast for Mississippi had Webb sounding no more optimistic: “I think the thing I want you to take away from here is that we really have slow growth. For several years, we have struggled to gain any momentum at all.”
Webb explained that the state’s GDP growth declined for four of the last seven years, having not experienced back-to-back years of growth since before the 2007 recession. This trend has kept Mississippi’s recovery slow, he said.
“For the last ten or fifteen years the state economy has not experienced what we would call strong growth,” Webb said. “It is a gain, but it’s very modest. The rest of the nation is beginning to see growth, and we are just not seeing that here.”
Webb said that one problem Mississippi will continue to face is its historic disinvestment in human capital. Though too complicated for even the Webb’s office to measure directly, human capital can be thought of as the economic value of an employee’s skill set. Employees accrue this value through targeted investments in their educational levels, benefits, or additional training that increases the quality or level of their production.
“We know that Mississippi suffers from long term problems,” Webb said. “We’re a poor state without a lot of human capital. There just isn’t a quick and easy solution.”