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Manufacturing pushes state’s economy for February

By JACK WEATHERLY
jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com

The Mississippi Manufacturing Employment Index surged in February by 6.4 percent over January – the largest monthly increase in nearly a quarter century, according to the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning’s University Research Center.

That was 2.6 percent higher than a year earlier, according to the report.

“The average weekly hours of work of production employees climbed 5.8 percent for the month to its highest level in two years,” the report stated.

The average hourly wage in Mississippi manufacturing in February was $20.38.

Manufacturing was the primary driver in increasing by 1 percent the Mississippi Leading Index (MLI) – with its seven components, including five state indicators and two national indicators, according to the Research Center’s monthly “Mississippi’s Business” report for April.

Manufacturing ranked second in adding jobs for the month, 800, compared with construction’s 900.

Initial unemployment claims, another component, “remain historically low, and despite a downward revision by the [U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics] to January employment in Mississippi, the job growth that began in the last quarter of 2017 continued in February.”

The unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent in February, down .1 percent from January, and .9 percent from a year earlier.

Other indicators exerted a downward pull.

The value of residential building permits fell 6.8 percent in the second month of the year to the lowest level since August 2016.

Nationally, building permits – not one of the MLI’s seven components – fell 5.7 from January, primarily in apartment complexes “suggesting that construction companies expect more Americans to segue to home ownership,” said an Associated Press report.

Aside from the MLI, the report stated that the state’s per capita income for 2017 was $36,346, ranking last.

So-called transfer payments from federal programs constituted 26.6 percent of personal income for 2017, compared with 20.1 percent for the Southeast and 17.5 percent nationally.

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