Arkansas Economy Should Enjoy 'Steady Growth,' Kathy Deck Tells Forecast Luncheon

by Chris Bahn  on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 4:07 pm  

Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Walton College of Business, speaks to the audience at the 2013 Business Forecast Luncheon. (Photo by Twitter: @uawaltoncollege)

Plans for a recently announced steel mill in Osceola will help the state, Deck said following her presentation. Officials at the announcement of the mill said more than 500 jobs will be created at an average starting salary of $75,000.

That, Deck said, should be just the start for the state. Arkansas needs more projects like Big River Steel to see long-term gains in areas like personal per capita income. Currently Arkansans earn about 81 percent of the national average in per capita income.

"The steel mill is great news, but even as extraordinary and exciting as it is… it’s the kind of thing that has to happen on a normal basis for us to replace the industries that are going away and for us to be successful," Deck said.

"Recruiting companies never stops. Work to retain the companies never stops. Training the labor force — I’ve hit it again and again and again — means we’ll have those opportunities."

Friday’s forecast focused on more than just the outlook for the state. Deck was joined at the forecast luncheon by Adolfo Laurent, deputy chief economist and managing director of Mesirow Financial, and Christopher Waller, research director and senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis. Laurenti offered thoughts on the international economy and Waller focused on the domestic forecast.

Waller said projections from the Federal Reserve are that by the beginning of 2014 the national unemployment average should get to 6.5 percent. He noted the most optimistic projections for unemployment see the dip to 6.5 percent as early as the middle of 2013.

As for a possible significant spike in inflation Waller said, "This just does not seem to be a fear."

Housing prices are on the rise and should go up another 6-7 percent in 2013. Growth in commercial real estate has not been as strong, but “we’re seeing signs of life," Waller said. "It’s a long way to go from the hole they’re coming out of."

 

 

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