By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – North Mississippi’s job market topped the list of concerns for unemployed residents at the WIN Job Center in Tupelo on a recent day.
They said the region needs more work, specifically in the manufacturing sector, and that lawmakers should stop the steady leak of jobs going overseas.
“They need to keep the jobs here,” said Sylvia Hooton, a former secretary from Fulton who has been seeking employment for about one month.
Other job-seekers echoed that sentiment, saying they’re worried America is short-changing its own residents for cheap labor in China, India, Mexico and elsewhere.
What few jobs they can find in the region don’t pay livable wages, they say, making it nearly impossible for them to pay the rent or mortgage – much less buy groceries and gas.
“Anyone can find work, but you can’t find affordable work,” said Ron Belcher Jr., a military veteran and recent cancer survivor who this summer moved to Mississippi from New York.
Belcher said he found two low-wage jobs. He’ll work both just to make ends meet but still worries the combined earnings won’t cover rent.
“I think they should raise minimum wage so people can afford the cost of living,” he said. “It should be $10 an hour across the board.”
Gas prices also concerned residents, with many saying the government should encourage more domestic oil drilling. Tupelo resident Maurice Whifield said the country has enough oil “to last a lifetime.”
Keithrick Stovall of Houston also complained about gas prices but said his biggest concern is simply knowing his elected leaders care about him.
“I just want someone,” Stovall said, “who can help me and help my family.”