UT Index Signals Slower Growth, Manufacturing Woes For State (230)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee’s economic forecasting gauge shows continued growth at a slower pace in Tennessee, a UT economist said Friday.

Dr. Matt Murray said UT’s monthly index of leading economic indicators, after surging almost 15 percent in October, rose a relatively slight 3.7 percent in November.

“The index for November points to a continuation of the trend that has been firmly established in recent months: slower growth, weakness in manufacturing and perhaps some bumps in the road and some negative movements in the economic indices as we move through 1997,” Murray said.

The November increase was driven by improvements in three of the five index components. New construction reached a five-year high for the month, unemployment insurance claims fell by 3,300 and the U.S. leading index improved substantially, he said.

Negative index components for the month are taxable mortgages, which plummeted at a seasonally adjusted rate of almost 75 percent, and taxable sales, which dropped about 34 percent.

Murray said overall employment in Tennessee has expanded, but the gains are tempered by the loss of jobs in manufacturing, especially non-durable goods.

“It is very encouraging that November showed a second consecutive increase, but there are some weaknesses beneath the surface,” Murray said. “Manufacturing has been an anchor around the state’s neck in the last several months that has caused economic growth across the state to slow substantially.”

Contact: Dr. Matt Murray (423-974-5441)