Total employment in Lee County moved into third-place statewide late in 1995, jumping ahead of Jackson County (Pascagoula) and trailing Hinds (Jackson) and Harrison (Gulfport/Biloxi) counties in the number of people employed. Community Development Foundation officials, in understatement, were highly encouraged by the new position.
The notching-up to third place happened despite a slight decline on Lee County’s manufacturing jobs between November 1994 and the same month in 1995: 18,482 compared to 18,272. That ground virtually had been regained by January, when employment in five manufacturing categories considered bellwethers by CDF was less than 100 jobs behind the highest 1995 total.
Lee County passed Jackson county when it posted 50,840 jobs in November. The county first celebrated the 50,000-job milestone last March. Jobs in three of the five categories used as a measure by CDF furniture, rubber, and machine industrials showed strong increases over the 10 years from 1986 to 1995. The two other categories, apparel and food, showed a significant, 10-year decline.
CDF President Harry Martin said no job loss ever should be discounted, but he said some losses were expected in the long term in some categories. He said a winnowing process, related in part to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), meant some declines for some industries. He also strongly endorsed NAFTA and the opportunity it creates for the creation of higher-paying jobs to replace lost jobs. Martin said the next five years would be crucial in determining the centers of prosperity in Mississippi for the 21st century.
Martin said he expects to present longer-term jobs, population and owner-occupied housing goals at CDF’s annual meeting in the spring. He said current projections subject to upward revisions indicate 56,000 total jobs as a realistic target for 2000. The overarching goal, he said, is to make every job in Lee County a quality job with superior pay and benefits.