EDITORIAL: Hard regional facts

By NEMS Daily Journal

Information released Monday about the economy of the 13-state Appalachian region places in context Mississippi’s long-term and shorter-term problems with jobs and growth, a situation that has improved but lingers after almost 45 years of coordinated public-private effort.
The Appalachian Regional Commission, which includes all or parts of states from southern New York to east-central Mississippi, was formed to help lift the poorest part of the nation from its historic poverty and build a new, better economic base.
Progress has been made under 28 years of Republican presidential control and 17 years of Democratic presidencies, but the overall status remains behind the nation, a situation belonging to both parties.
ARC Senior Economist David Carrier’s third-quarter report on unemployment within ARC, which includes most of Northeast Mississippi, showed further deterioration but signs of leveling off – bad news tempered by less-bad findings.
The ARC findings showed that job losses were more severe in Appalachia than in the nation as a whole: -5 percent vs. -4.1 percent respectively compared to a year earlier.
Job loss, as many Northeast Mississippians have experienced firsthand, is reported “most severe in Southern Appalachia, where the decline was -6.6 percent since last year; and less severe in Northern Appalachia, where employment fell -3.8 percent. While U.S. employment has fallen back to levels last seen in 2004, Appalachia has lost all of the jobs gained since the end of the previous recession in 2002.”
Unemployment exceeded 10 percent in these state ARC regions: Alabama (10.4 percent), Georgia (10.2 percent), Kentucky (11.8 percent), Mississippi (12.1 percent), North Carolina (10.6 percent), and South Carolina (11.1 percent).
However, unemployment was highest in Appalachian Ohio, at 12.2 percent, placing Mississippi second-highest regionwide.
The general forecast for the Appalachian region supports generally accepted assertions that employment rides heavily on increasing, appropriate educational attainment.
The jobs growth forecast lists health and education (20.1 percent), professional services (19.8 percent), mining (17.4 percent), construction (15 percent), and personal services (14.4 percent), but at generally lower than nationwide rates.
Farming and manufacturing are projected to continue to decline steeply over the forecast horizon (2015), with the highest losses expected in mining, manufacturing, farming and natural resources, and utilities.
Strong effort toward improvement obviously must continue, especially in Appalachia’s weaker sub-regions like northern and east-central Mississippi.
In that role, concentrated efforts in smaller sub-regions will be key to overcoming negative trends.
For more information, go to www.arc.gov.