A leading Ball State University economist gave a rather bleak forecast for the state and national economies heading into next year, saying he can’t see how the United States will avoid a recession that seems to have taken hold in Europe.

The Elkhart Truth reported that on the surface in Elkhart County, things seem to be moving in a positive direction. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) says shipments are on track to match pre-recession levels, and the county’s September unemployment rate fell to 4.6%, it’s lowest mark since October 2007.

Also, on Tuesday (Nov. 11) came news that Indiana manufacturers are relatively optimistic these days, with 78% describing their financial performance as “stable” or “healthy,” and 20% planning to build new plants in Indiana over the next two years.

But addressing a group of chief financial officers, controllers and financial managers from Elkhart and South Bend area businesses on Wednesday, Nov. 12, Michael Hicks, the director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said he and other economists are concerned about the future.

“The good news is the gasoline prices,” he said. “The bad news is the continued low wages and the evidence that retail sales just aren’t rebounding like they should be.”

Hicks was one of several speakers at Kruggel Lawton CPA’s 7th Annual CFO Summit, a daylong series of seminars at the Essenhaus Inn & Conference Center in Middlebury, Ind.

Hicks said gasoline prices are low because of increased U.S. domestic production from the shale oil boom, along with Saudia Arabia’s decision to keep petroleum prices low in order to punish Russia for its aggression in Ukraine.

But that’s about the only silver lining Hicks mentioned.

Although manufacturing growth rapidly recovered following the Great Recession of 2008-09, it’s growing more slowly now. Retail sales, or consumer spending, have gradually trended downward over the past year and a half.

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