(Reuters) - Storms that killed 328 people in the South will complicate efforts by states and municipalities to recover from years of budget crises but federal assistance should blunt the disaster’s economic impact.
Following are U.S. states affected by the tornadoes and storms with detail of the economic challenges they face:
ALABAMA - (228 dead in storms)
Alabama is struggling to balance its $19 billion budget in the face of falling revenues. It announced last month it may have to lay off 1,000 state employees because it must wipe out a shortfall of more than $900 million in its budget for the fiscal year starting this summer.
The state was also hit by the BP Gulf oil spill last year, which hurt tourism and fishing. Its jobless rate has been easing of late, falling to 9.2 percent in March.
Alabama’s economy is expected to grow by more than 3 percent in 2011 after expanding slightly more than 2 percent in 2010.
TENNESSEE (34 dead in storms)
Tennessee has a low debt level, which has garnered it top credit ratings by two of the three major rating agencies, and Fitch Ratings expects the state budget to return to stability over the next year.
However, the state’s estimated per capita income ranked 38th out of 50 states in 2009 and unemployment is high. In March, the unemployment rate was 9.5 percent. Tennessee’s economy relies heavily on manufacturing.
MISSISSIPPI (33 dead in storms)
The state faces long-term high unemployment rates and a workforce with low education levels. It took a blow to its economy from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico a year ago. For the fiscal year starting this summer, it will have to close a budget gap of $634 million.
In 2009, the last year data is available, Mississippi residents earned the lowest median income in the United States, of $36,646. The national median income stands at $50,221.
A report in January from Moody’s Investors Services found that Mississippi’s combination of $10.3 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $4.4 billion in tax-supported debt represented 15.9 percent of the state’s GDP, the second highest rate in the nation and an indicator that it has steep long-term financial burdens.
The states’ tax revenues have begun improving but Governor Haley Barbour says he expects recovery to be slow.
GEORGIA (15 dead in storms)
The state’s revenues are heading to recovery, increasing 9.4 percent this year from last. But Georgia must close a budget gap of more than $1 billion for the fiscal year starting this summer.
Georgia’s jobless rate has dropped in the past few months but remains high at 10 percent. The state, with a population of around 10 million, is trying to recover from the recession when its economy contracted 3.1 percent.
Even after the recession ended, the state’s personal income per capita is below the national rate.
ARKANSAS (11 dead in storms)
Like almost all states, Arkansas saw its revenues collapse during the 2007-2009 recession but it expects its income to return to pre-recession peaks in the budget year that starts this summer. Its employment conditions are improving as well, with its jobless rate currently at 7.8 percent.
Compiled by Lisa Lambert and Matthew Bigg, editing by Andrew Hay