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Service industry job growth in state impressive, but...

MBJ Editorial

The late June news from the Census Bureau that Mississippi led the nation in growth of service businesses between 1992 and 1997 was not surprising to many Mississippians.

The explosion of gaming, and its related hotel, restaurant and amusement arms, this past decade has fueled a vital economic renaissance in the state. The numbers bear witness to this rebirth.

According to the federal government’s data, Mississippi’s service sector had a 66% increase in employment growth from 108,000 to 180,000, and a 94% increase in receipts from $5.5 billion to $10.7 billion. Mississippi’s hotel and motel receipts jumped from $235 million to $1.34 billion.

“From another report, we know that Mississippi’s hotel receipts were dominated by casino hotels,” said Census Bureau analyst Paul Zeisset.

Traditionally, service-related jobs have offered low wages and few, if any, benefits. This situation has been modified somewhat by a tight labor market, but should a downturn strike the economy (and, invariably, one will) the service industry’s delicate sensitivity to the whimsey of the marketplace, economic cycles and public opinion (“Should we spend? Should we save? I don’t know?!?”) could be more negatively impacted than the economy overall.

There is no doubt that the service industry is one of the most important components to the U.S. and Mississippi economies. In fact, of the 6.4 million new jobs created in the country between 1992 and 1997, more than half were in service industries.

However, it is imperative that Mississippi continue to build new and support existing business and industry in such fields as technology, manufacturing, information management and R&D since these higher-paying jobs contribute directly to the goal of increasing the state’s per capita income.

Invest in these endeavors — and the service jobs will follow. And that’s economic development.

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