Les Range has been executive director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security since October 2009. Range joined the agency in 2004 when he was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour as the director of the agency’s Office of Unemployment Insurance. He became the agency’s deputy executive director in 2006. He answered these questions from the Journal about Mississippi’s jobs outlook:
Q: How would you describe the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s employment situation?
A: Our state and nation face considerable economic challenges as a result of the recession. Even with the troubles, there has been quite a bit of good news. We’re helping Toyota staff its Blue Springs operation with 1,350 employees. KiOR, the biofuels company, will soon hire for five facilities. Also, two steel production companies will open their doors in the state.
But those aren’t the only jobs. At the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, we maintain a database of thousands of jobs across the state to help our citizens find work. Anyone needing a job should visit our website, www.mdes.ms.gov, or one of our more than 50 WIN Job Centers.
Q: What impact will Toyota’s Blue Springs plant and its suppliers have on the Mississippi job market?
A: As workers begin their jobs, I expect unemployment in those counties will decrease. New jobs infuse money into the local economy, so I expect businesses in those communities to see increased sales activity, enough to possibly add new employees. That area of the state will see gains in sales tax revenues. Ultimately, those tax increases will benefit those communities and the state.
Most importantly, these jobs are a new source of hope for the thousands who get them – both the jobs with Toyota and its suppliers and any other jobs that may arise from this growth in economic activity. It will be a relief to some who have been struggling to find themselves helping construct one of the most popular cars in the world.
Q: What advice would you offer unemployed or underemployed people looking for work in the current environment?
A: The recession has forever changed the employment landscape. Some jobs have gone away and will never return, but that has created room for new industries and careers. We’re working aggressively to deliver resources to provide the training, education and skills needed for careers in high-wage, high-demand targeted occupations.
MDES partners with community and junior colleges across the state to provide job training. Those interested in new careers should visit our WIN Job Centers to learn more about Individual Training Accounts.
I encourage all job-seekers to view the state with an open mind because opportunities may be available in other regions of the state. I also encourage those looking for jobs to remain diligent. New jobs are posted on our website daily.
NEMS Daily Journal