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Service sector largest Mississippi employer and growing

All of the service sectors of the Mississippi economy are gaining in employees and this sector is the largest employment category in Mississippi, according to Dr. Charles Webb, an economist with Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning University Research Center.

“Right up there” with the service sector is the government sector. Other leading employment sectors are manufacturing, transportation and public utilities.

But manufacturing employment in the state is declining, as it has been for years.

“Mississippi is like the nation in employment trends in the past 10 years, steadily moving away from manufacturing jobs to service jobs. But Mississippi was slow in getting on board and was still getting manufacturing jobs after the national trend started.”

Webb added that “when the trend in losing manufacturing jobs started in Mississippi, the loss of those jobs was rapid.”

The 2001 recession was mainly about the loss of low-skill manufacturing jobs, and that loss in Mississippi was greater than in the nation as a whole.

Peaks and valleys

Mississippi’s nonagricultural employment reached a peak in 2000, and average annual employment did not rise again until 2004 when the state gained 10,100 jobs but lost 4,250 jobs in the same period for a net gain of 5,850.

Though the employment rise was good news for Mississippi, Webb said that “it masks the fact that much of the state is not experiencing an increase.”

Of the state’s 82 counties, 34 saw declines in employment between 2003 and 2004. Forty-six counties had their employment numbers increase and in two there was no change.

Actually, 15 counties had declines in employment each year between 2001 and 2004. And of the 46 counties that did experience gains, nine experienced less than a 1% increase.

Where the jobs are

Of those 10,100 jobs produced in 2004, some 9,420, or 93% were in just three counties: Madison (5,970 jobs), Rankin (2,090 jobs) and DeSoto (1,360 jobs). In Pontotoc and Lee Counties, 1,670 jobs were added, while 1,280 jobs were gained in Lamar and Jones counties.

These seven counties together added 12,370 jobs in 2004. But 15 counties lost 4,250 jobs on average in the same period. These 15 counties were: Adams, Amite, Clay, Coahoma, Hinds, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Lowndes, Tate, Tishomingo, Union, Washington, Winston and Yazoo.

Of the 5,970 jobs added in Madison, 3,290 were in manufacturing. The Nissan plant and related businesses accounted for most of these jobs. The next largest gains were in the business and professional services sector, which added 1,230 jobs.

The 2,090 additional jobs in Rankin County were spread evenly among various nonmanufacturing sectors. Significant gains were seen in the trade transportation and utilities sector (570), leisure and hospitality sector (480), education and health services (470) and construction (320 jobs).

Of DeSoto County’s 1,360 job increase, significant gains were in administrative support and waste management (480), retail (420), education (220) and construction (190).
In Lee County, most of the new jobs were in retail trade; in Pontotoc County, manufacturing; in Jones County, the government sector, and in Lamar, the accommodations and food service sector.

Population = prosperity

According to Webb, the data shows the continuation of a trend that has been occurring for some time: Areas in and around population centers enjoy the greatest economic prosperity.

“In these areas, a critical mass of employable people exists with which to attract industry. Additionally, these areas have a sufficient population base either within the area or traveling through the area to support gains in retail trade and various services.”

Webb continued, “Interestingly, having a large population is not a guarantee of success. The Harrison-Hancock area, which is in a population center, did not see large gains in employment.”

Hancock County only gained 150 jobs and Harrison County, 190 jobs. A decline in the construction sector caused a large employment decline in Harrison County while in Hancock County lackluster growth was spread over all sectors.
Summertime pressure

Mississippi’s unemployment rate dropped by seven-tenths of a point in April, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) This drop was driven by gains in most sectors of the economy.

The 6.3% April rate was down from 7% in March but 1.2 points higher than April’s 5.1% a year ago.

During April, employment gains were reported in the employment sectors of accommodations and food services, retail trade and construction. Losses were in public administration and information.

“Traditionally, the unemployment rates rise in May as students enter the workforce to seek summer employment,” according to Liz Barnett, MDES public information director. “But the brunt of student summer workers won’t be felt until June and July, which puts pressure on the labor market.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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