BOSTON — A new economic report says the Massachusetts economy appears to be slipping into a “lower gear” after a lengthy period in which it grew faster than the nation as a whole.

In comments released on Thursday, the editorial board of MassBenchmarks said deteriorating global economic conditions are taking a toll on the state’s innovation and technology sector — a traditional strength of the Massachusetts economy.

The report also noted that Massachusetts merchandise exports are down from a year ago.

The economists did note that stronger activity and higher prices in the housing market is a bright spot for the state economy. It did not forecast a recession.

MassBenchmarks is a journal of the Massachusetts economy published by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank.

1 out of 5 households

student debt burdened

LOS ANGELES — The share of American households affected by student debt has more than doubled in the past two decades, soaring from 9 percent in 1989 to a record of nearly 1 in 5 in 2010. The 19 percent of households weighed down by school loans is higher even than 2007, when 15 percent owed money for their education, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

Young people are especially hard hit, as are poorer Americans. Among households headed by someone younger than age 35, 40 percent have student debt on the books. For those with incomes in the lowest fifth nationwide, school loans are equal to nearly a quarter of income.

The same group holds 13 percent of all student debt in the country, up from 11 percent in 2007. Student loans now make up 5 percent of all debts, up from 3 percent five years ago.

All this as overall household incomes continue their decade-long slide, according to the government.

Report: Economic growth remains slow

The U.S. economy grew at a sluggish 1.3 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That’s down from the government’s previous estimate of 1.7 percent growth and slower than the 2 percent rate In the January-March quarter. The severe drought cut farm production in the Midwest, accounting for roughly half the downward revision. The government also said consumer spending and exports also grew more slowly. Economists forecast growth at a rate of 1.5 percent to 2 percent in the January-March quarter. That’s too slow to lower the unemployment rate.

Compiled from wire reports

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