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Miss. Economy Predicted To Grow Slowly In 2013

JEFF AMY

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) â¿¿ Mississippi's economy is forecast to grow slowly again in 2013, after eking out just barely positive growth in 2012.

State economists predict economic output will expand 1.6 percent next year. That's likely to be only enough growth to drag the state's unemployment rate to 8.9 percent from the 9.2 percent it has averaged so far this year.

Marianne Hill, an economist for Mississippi's College Board, says the state's reliance on low-skill jobs and federal money means its economy is growing more slowly than other parts of the nation.

For 2012, Hill predicts the state's output will grow, but only by 0.4 percent, compared to 2.1 percent growth nationwide. The faster 2013 growth rate is also expected to trail a national growth rate of 1.8 percent.

"Apparently, our industries are not the ones growing as rapidly as nationally," Hill said.

She notes that the state's professional and business service sector is lagging, and that the number of small businesses in Mississippi has fallen over the last decade. Fewer new firms are opening in the state than nationwide, leading Hill to question whether entrepreneurs can borrow money.

"We are noted for having a conservative banking community, but that means firms may have trouble getting access to capital," Hill said.

The worst drag on the economy this year will likely be construction, which is expected to shrink 4.8 percent. Also expected to fall, but at smaller rates, are the financial, leisure and hospitality, government and nondurable goods manufacturing sectors.

All those are expected to turn positive in 2013, with durable goods manufacturing and agriculture continuing to lead the way in growth. There is faster growth on the horizon in 2014, 2015 and 2016, with Mississippi's economy expected to grow by 2.4 percent or more in each of those years.

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