Economists say no recession for New England

Jon Chesto

An economic rebound will arrive later than expected in New England, but the region should narrowly avoid slipping into a recession.

That’s the verdict of a group of economists known as the New England Economic Partnership, which issued its latest economic outlook on Friday.

The New England economy is performing better than the nation’s this year, as measured by gross regional product, or the total value of goods and services produced. That’s largely because of the strength of the Massachusetts economy, which makes up about half of the New England economy.

The economists see nearly no overall growth in New England for the first six months of this year; the region likely would have dipped into a recession if not for economic growth in Massachusetts. Although the Bay State’s job growth has been spotty lately, the state’s overall economy has grown at an annualized rate of nearly 3 percent in the first half of this year.

Ross Gittell, vice president of the New England Economic Partnership and a University of New Hampshire professor, said that last fall, his group expected the region’s economy would pick up by early this year. Now, that anticipated rebound has been pushed back to the second half of this year.

“We’re taking longer than we thought to come out of this period of a weaker economy,” Gittell said. “When we do come out of it, you’re going to see very little growth in the economy.”

Through 2012, the region will recover with gross regional product growing at an average rate of 2.7 percent, compared with a national rate of 2.8 percent. Total employment is expected to grow 2.5 percent over that time, about half of the rate of the nation’s growth. The region’s construction, manufacturing and financial sectors are all expected to see job declines over that time.

Massachusetts has been the strongest-performing state in New England this year, largely because of the clusters of technology and biotech firms in the state.

“The export sectors are doing particularly well,” Gittell said. “The relatively weak dollar is helping Massachusetts with a lot of export activity, and the high-tech and biotech sectors are relatively strong.”

The Patriot Ledger