The economy, while strong nationally, has continued to see only moderate-to-slow growth in the Louisville metro area, according to Uric Dufrene, Sanders Chair of Business at Indiana University Southeast, at the 10th annual mid-year economic update breakfast Thursday morning.

The Louisville metro includes five Southern Indiana counties: Harrison, Floyd, Clark, Scott and Washington.

Dufrene compared the economic outlook to the cloudy, ominous weather outside of the large windows facing west in the Hoosier Room on the IUS campus in New Albany.

He said a few signs still point to a possible recession within the next 18 months, but he also highlighted some of the strong numbers nationally.

"The national jobs' picture is very strong," he said. "Payrolls are higher than the previous month, job gains exceeded expectations and a there continues to be a dip in the nation's unemployment rate. Very favorable, very positive for the nation has a whole."

Dufrene said a dip in industrial production is usually a warning sign for a recession, and the last few reports showed declines.

"It's a warning sign I want you to take into consideration," Dufrene said.

Dufrene concluded the slow growth of the Louisville Metro area, compared to nationally, could be caused by a deceleration in the River Ridge expansion and the lack of professional and business services jobs, which includes computer and mathematics (IT services).

Louisville trails neighboring Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Nashville, Tenn., significantly in computer (IT) jobs.

Louisville currently has less than half the job openings or job postings compared to the three neighboring cities.

"I mentioned these cities because they're close enough it's not an inconvenience for graduates from here to move to Nashville, Cincinnati or Indianapolis ... ," he said. "This whole tech initiative is critical to Louisville metro."

Dufrene said most of the jobs in the professional business sector are $75,000-plus.

"These are high paying jobs," he said.

In last 10 years, Cincinnati has added 17,000 jobs in this sector; Indianapolis 21,000; Nashville, 29,000; and Louisville only added 6,000.

Dufrene credited local governance and economic development for quality-of-place improvements.

"I can't underestimate the importance of quality of place," Dufrene said. "I think it's critical, absolutely critical."

He showed an example of a bike trail in a town in Ohio and how it has revitalized the region and economic development followed.

"You'll see the payoff in attracting that tech talent we're lacking versus our peers," he said.