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January 31, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Matt Harris offers insights on the national and state economy for 2024

He's a member of the team at UT, Knoxville's Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research.

“Most of the headwinds are pulling us back to normal,” said Matt Harris during his concluding remarks on Wednesday at the Knoxville Chamber’s sold-out “2024 Economic Outlook” event.

Matt Harris

In a humor-filled presentation that began with Harris saying he was “grateful for a little bit of calm” following the past few years, the Economist with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research took attendees on a review of national and state developments in the economy. Harris holds both the Boyd Distinguished Professorship of Health Economics and the Michael Stahl PEMBA Faculty Research Fellowship, serves as the faculty athletics representative to the Southeastern Conference, and chairs the organizing committee for the Annual Health Econometrics Workshop.

He started his presentation with a review of 2023 national data, including the gross domestic product being 2.5 percent, personal consumption clocking in at 2.2 percent, and gross private investment recording a 1.8 percent increase.

“Whatever the national economy does, Tennessee does better,” Harris said, noting that he only had comparative figures for 2022. The national economy grew that year by 2.1 percent while the Volunteer State saw growth of 4.3 percent. The Boyd Center forecast is 1.8 percent for Tennessee in 2024 compared to 1.4 percent for the nation.

He noted that inflation, which Harris characterized as the “gorilla in the room,” has been declining and reached 3.3 percent at the end of 2023. “It is still north of 2 percent,” which he reminded attendees is the Federal Reserve’s goal.

Harris also touched on a variety of other topics.

  • Housing: Knoxville ranked first among all Metropolitan Statistical Areas across the nation in terms of the largest increase in home prices. He also voiced at least some modest concern about housing units under construction. That number has been declining, and it has historically been an indicator of a potential recession.
  • Deficits: They are at historic levels due to four factors (Medicare, Medicaid, national defense, and interest on the debt).
  • Employment: Across the state, all sectors have recovered after the pandemic, and Tennessee is one of the best states in the nation for employment growth with East Tennessee leading the other regions of the state. “Workers mobility is back to normal,” he added, but the Volunteer State is 3 percent below national labor participation rates which Harris said was “significant.”

For more information on the Economic Outlook Report, visit this story from

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