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BILL CRAWFORD: State job recovery more modest than terrific

BILL CRAWFORD

Record numbers of jobs and job growth in Mississippi top political speeches by incumbent politicians these days.

Yes, more Mississippians have jobs now than before the Great Recession.

Yes, more Mississippians have jobs now than ever before.

But, there is more to the story.

Total residence-based employment (the number that includes part-time and self-employed individuals used to calculate unemployment rates) hit 1,223,887 in July. That was up 0.3% from 1,219,739 in July 2008 and a new record.

Total non-farm jobs (the number of jobs at Mississippi establishments) reached 1,165,500 in July. That was up 1.9% from 1,143,800 in July 2018 and a new record.

However, over the same multi-year periods, U.S. employment grew 7.2% and non-farm jobs 8.4%.

While employment was up overall, it was not up in two-thirds of the 82 counties.

Down counties with percentages include: Humphreys -43.6%, Issaquena -42.4%, Quitman -27.6%, Jefferson -27.1%, Jefferson Davis -25.2%, Sharkey -25.2%, Carroll -25.1%, Wilkinson -23.2%, Neshoba -23.1%, Leflore -21.7%, Washington -21.2%, Sunflower -20.1%, Jasper -18.7%, Jones -17.9%, Adams -16.4%, Stone -16.0%, Holmes -14.4%, Walthall -13.5%, Amite -13.3%, Clarke -12.4%, Kemper -12.2%, Claiborne -10.4%, Bolivar -10.1%, Coahoma -9.8%, Warren -9.4%, Panola -8.9%, Perry -8.5%, Lawrence -8.3%, Wayne -7.9%, Newton -7.3%, Greene -7.0%, Winston -6.5%, Franklin -6.4%, George -6.1%, Pike -6.0%, Leake -4.6%, Forrest -4.6%, Lauderdale -4.6%, Covington -4.4%, Copiah -3.5%, Montgomery -3.1%, Hinds -3.0%, Simpson -3.0%, Yalobusha -2.8%, Jackson -2.3%, Lowndes -0.8%, Marshall -0.7%, Yazoo -0.6%, Attala -0.3%.

At the same time, there were a few big gainers. Nine counties saw employment jump by over 15% since 2008.

Up counties with percentages include: Lamar 30.1%, Lafayette 23.9%, Union 23.7%, Webster 20.0%, Madison 19.3%, Tippah 17.3%, Choctaw 16.0%, Benton 15.7%, Clay 15.4%, Pontotoc 14.6%, DeSoto 14.4%, Oktibbeha 14.2%, Lee 12.1%, Noxubee 11.9%, Calhoun 11.6%, Pearl River 11.0%, Tunica 10.6%, Smith 10.2%, Tishomingo 10.1%, Lincoln 10.0%, Itawamba 8.6%, Alcorn 8.1%, Grenada 6.5%, Tate 5.9%, Scott 5.7%, Chickasaw 5.2%, Prentiss 4.8%, Tallahatchie 4.3%, Rankin 4.0%, Hancock 3.9%, Monroe 3.2%, Marion 1.9%, Harrison 1.3%.

What job categories grew?

In the private sector: social assistance 61%, transportation and warehousing 19%, educational services 19%, ambulatory health care 18%, professional and business services 11%, nursing and residential care facilities 10%, leisure and hospitality 8%, utilities 6%, retail trade 1%.

In the public sector: local government 1%.

All other private and public sectors remain below 2008 levels.

Some good news is annual average wages increased in all counties but George and Jefferson Davis.

Some not-so-good news is while Mississippi wages increased, they fell further behind national averages. For 2008, Mississippi wages averaged $33,508, behind the national average of $45,563 by $12,055. For 2017, Mississippi wages averaged $38,788, behind the national average of $55,390 by $16,602. Mississippi wages also increased just 2% faster than inflation since 2008 while nationally wages beat inflation by 8%.

So, yes, Mississippi has recovered jobs lost during the Great Recession and, overall, more Mississippians are working with higher average wages. But with so many counties still lagging below 2008 employment levels and Mississippi’s weak growth compared to national averages, things are really more modest than terrific.

(Data from the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics; historic data no longer available from MS. Department of Employment Security.)

» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.

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