Christmas sales figures are still anybody’s guess, but new employment numbers for the Mississippi Coast show job growth.
That’s the bottom line in the Gulf Coast Business Council’s Economy Snapshot for December, said Scott King, the director of policy and research who puts the numbers together and sorts out what they mean.
“The latest job numbers confirm that we’ve added jobs on the Coast over the last 12 months,” he said. “The report doesn’t speak to sales tax collections occurring right now,” he said.
But if those numbers are strong, King said, that would validate the signs of job growth. “We can show a correlation between sales tax and job growth,” he said.
After 12 months of losses in establishment jobs year-over-year, the Coast has added jobs for nine straight months.
The Mississippi Department of Employment Security estimates the addition of 4,160 establishment jobs in the three coastal counties in October compared to October 2011.
It excludes self-employed individuals.
Jackson County added the largest number of jobs, about 3,300, with 1,280 jobs in construction and 530 in the leisure and hospitality market.
Harrison County added 840 jobs and Hancock County, 20 jobs. Most of the gains were in the leisure and hospitality and transportation and warehousing sectors.
King said there are a couple of reasons for the strong comeback in tourism-related jobs. “It was hit hardest by Katrina and slower to come back, and also hospitality jobs are among the worst impacted by the recession. I expect as we come out of the recession and see sales tax growth, the leisure and hospitality jobs will come back. Also, we have seen significant increases in tourism marketing budgets as a result of BP (oil spill) monies.”
King said a significant part of the the growth in construction jobs in Jackson County is related to the Chevron expansion.
Manufacturing and retail jobs showed small losses in October, the only two sectors in the negative column.
King said the Coast’s economy has enjoyed small upswings but he’s looking forward to a longer period of growth.
“We know the economy grew the first nine months,” King said. “We’re still waiting for a period of 12 months to be able to sustain that growth. The recovery on the Coast and nationally is going to be fragile and the longer we can sustain even modest growth, the more likely we will jump into a full blown recovery as opposed to small peaks and valleys.”
The Economic Snapshot also reported that sales tax on the Coast continues to grow. Sales tax collections were up 4.3 percent comparing May to September figures to the prior year.
In Hancock County, the collections were up 19.2 percent, but the figure is skewed because of the newly incorporated city of Diamondhead’s impact. Harrison County tax collections jumped 3.8 percent and Jackson County, 2.0 percent.
Year-end sales tax collections will be critical, he said.
“The fourth quarter will really have a very influential role in what type of start we got off to in 2013.”