By JACK WEATHERLY
Mississippi’s economy slipped again in April primarily because manufacturing workers’ average workweek fell below 40 hours for the first time in six years.
The “manufacturing employment intensity index” is one of three indices that declined in April, sending the Leading Index of Economic Indicators (MLI) downward, according to a monthly report issued by the Institutions of Higher Learning’s University Research Center.
Mary Willoughby, chief of labor market information for the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, said in an email that the manufacturing “wage estimates are based on employer responses from a probability based survey. “
“We determined that the drop was not caused by a single event. In both durable and nondurable manufacturing there were numerous respondents in the sample that reported shorter workweeks for production workers. The data for most of those respondents was coded as “Shorter Scheduled Workweek”. We saw one respondent’s data coded “Temporary Shutdown.”
Mississippi Manufacturing Association President and Chief Executive Jay Moon said he was not familiar with the data and that a month did not constitute a trend.
The employment index is 7.7 percent lower than it was a year earlier, the University Research Center reported.
Another contributor to the drop in the MLI was residential building permits, which declined 4.7 percent, the second straight month of decrease.
Still, the MLI in April was 2.3 percent higher than a year earlier, but that is the smallest year-over-year increase since September.
Manufacturing employment stood at more than 142,000 in April, making it the second-largest sector in the state’s economy, which employed more than 1.2 million that month. Trade, transportation and utilities was the largest at more than 230,000.