Economist Nicholas Perna recently spoke before 300 guests and employees of Fairfield County Bank, Fairfield County Bank Insurance Services, and Fairfield County Financial Services at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wilton. Perna, a well-regarded economic expert and former economist for the Federal Reserve, discussed the United States economy, the stock market, Connecticut\u2019s economy and his views on the future. Perna began the evening discussing the United States economy demonstrating relatively strong job growth and an unemployment rate of 4%. With the stock market having its biggest rally in recent memory, Perna said market gains not only reflect a good economy but show consumers and businesses are reacting positively to low interest rates, potential tax cuts, and possible deregulation. Connecticut\u2019s economy has not seen as much positive growth. Since the recession, Connecticut has job growth of 2% while Massachusetts has a 6% growth rate and the United States has 9%. \u00a0Connecticut lags in growth because of the fiscal issues that the state faces, he said. Connecticut was growing as fast as the United States after the recession but hit a roadblock in 2011 with a budget that fixed short-term issues rather than long-term. Perna holds a Ph.D. in economics from MIT and an undergraduate degree from Boston College. \u00a0\u00a0In 1999 he founded Perna Associates, specializing in economic analysis, forecasting and strategy. Before that, he was chief economist for several large regional banks, as well as an economist \u00a0with General Electric, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the President\u2019s Council of Economic Advisers in Washington. He is a director of Prudential Bank & Trust.