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Miss. consumer spending grows slowest in nation

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Overall consumer spending grew more slowly in Mississippi than in any other state in 2012, reflecting the state's slow recovery from the recession.

A report released Thursday by the U.S. Commerce Department finds overall personal consumption spending grew 2.5 percent in Mississippi in 2012, compared to 4.1 percent nationwide. With other figures showing Mississippi's economy grew by a brisk 3.5 percent that year, it suggests gains didn't make it to the pockets of residents, or if so, they didn't spend the money.

On a per-capita basis, spending grew 2.2 percent to $27,406 in 2012, compared with 3.3 percent growth to $35,498 nationwide. Only Wyoming and Hawaii saw slower growth.

The figures, being calculated on a state-by-state basis for the first time, are meant to measure not economic output, but all the goods and services bought for consumers, both by themselves and by others, such as government purchases of health care in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Such spending represents a big part of Mississippi's economy, totaling about $82 billion in 2012, when the size of the state's whole economy was about $100 billion.

Consumer spending in Mississippi grew strongly from 2005 to 2008, driven by the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. But it nose-dived in the recession year of 2009, falling 2.5 percent on a per-capita basis. That's about the same decrease as nationally that year. But Mississippi's recovery since then has lagged the nation. Per-capita personal spending rose 10.7 percent nationwide in 2010 through 2012, while it only rose 8.2 percent in Mississippi.

Mississippi has suffered from high unemployment during the period, and employer payrolls remain well below pre-recession levels. That slow growth in the job market has also been reflected in relatively muted growth in state sales tax receipts. Overall state revenue rose 20 percent from the 2010 budget year through the end of the 2013 budget year, but much of that growth has been driven by individual and corporate income tax collections.

The figures show Mississippians spend more than the national average on gasoline, reflecting a rural and car-dependent state. However, they spend less than all other Americans on housing and utilities.

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Online: Personal Consumption Spending: http://1.usa.gov/1zY5sEL

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Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy

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