JACKSON, Miss.-- Mississippians are used to hearing about how we lag behind the rest of the nation in education, poverty, prison population and health. Now those types of factors are being cited as a reason that Mississippi's economy is behind.
State Economist Dr. Darrin Webb was the bearer of news last week that Mississippi may not see employment numbers back up to pre-2008 standards until 2018, a full ten years. Webb also said he believes the state is in a recession, meaning we're not moving ahead economically and may even be scooting backward in some areas.
In fact, Webb tells us there are very few areas in which Mississippi is doing well. One of those is in the auto industry.
"We've actually seen manufacturing pick up just a bit here recently and that's always good to see manufacturing start to rise. And you've seen professional business services rose just over the last month. Education and health services rose as well," he said.
Webb says there are systemic problems, though, that keep the state behind others.
"They do have to do with the human capital and when I say human capital, it's not just education. It does involve your health. Obesity, for example. One of the most costly parts of obesity is less productivity. That begins to start affecting the economy," he said.
Webb said unwed motherhood is also a factor.
"Study after study shows that's a drain on the economy. Certainly these are social issues, but they're economic issues. And they're systemic problems for the State of Mississippi and until we get a handle on those, I think we will see Mississippi lag behind the rest of the nation."
Webb said one bright spot in all the negative economic news is the resurgence of housing.
"Housing is not a minor thing. Housing has really been the big drain on the economy for the past several years and if that is really beginning to turn around, then that is a big positive for the state and for the nation."