UT Study: Economy finds "firm footing," Tennessee outperforming U.S.

"The fundamentals of the economy are strong." Those famous words from Arizona Sen. John McCain's failed presidential campaign five years ago are finally beginning to ring true in the United States, especially right here in Tennessee, according to a new report coming out of the University of Tennessee.

The study, which was conducted by UT's Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), found the nation's economy was making a comeback. The news was even better for those living in Tennessee. Researchers said the Volunteer State outperformed the rest of the county in several measures.

"The economy has finally found a firm footing," said Matt Murray, CBER associate director and the report's author. "This will be the third year of payroll employment growth and a falling unemployment rate following the Great Recession."

In fact, the state's manufacturing sector grew more than twice as fast as the rest of the nation. Personal income, non-farm employment, and manufacturing employment in Tennessee all outpaced the U.S. as a whole, while its annual unemployment rate remained below the national average, the report found.

Tennessee ranked 12th on an index of economic momentum compiled by the State Policy Reports. The index compiles personal income growth, employment growth, and population growth.

Even the bleaker findings had a silver lining. The report cautioned that a modest slowdown was in store for the third quarter of the year. After that, though, it predicts growth will accelerate through 2015.

Nationwide, the report expects the unemployment rate to keep falling, from an average of 7.8% last year to 7.2% for 2014. Payroll employment is expected to rise 1.5% this year and 1.6% next year.

"These modest employment gains will help support modest reductions in the unemployment rate," Murray said.

Vehicle sales are rebounding, too. By 2016, researchers believe car sales will return to the 2006 level.

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