By Bill Crawford
Mississippi is in a “jobs recession” stated State Economist Darrin Webb in the August edition of Mississippi’s Business.
“In fact,” he wrote, “with the jobs lost in June, the state’s employment level is only 500 jobs above the level of the lowest point following the 2007 recession. The state has lost employment relative to the year ago for all but two of the past 14 months. Furthermore, the Mississippi Index of Leading Indicators has fallen for three consecutive months revealing a weakening state economy.
“The National economy continues to grow, but it too is weakening. Employment improved in July, but there are few bright spots in this economy. Gas prices, which had been giving consumers a much needed break, are now creeping upward. Consumers have curtailed spending. Vehicle sales remain strong however and there are some signs of life in the housing sector. But this economy has clearly lost momentum. The risk of recession has not changed however. It remains at 25 percent.”
A dreary picture, but we are prompted to look for silver linings.
Luster can be found in the health care and social services sector. These high paying jobs increased every year since 2001, from 95,800 to 122,900 in 2012, according to Mississippi Department of Employment Security data.
This sector now represents 11 percent of all nonfarm jobs, up from 8 percent in 2001. Hospital jobs, which make up about one-third of the sector, have only increased slightly; most growth comes from ambulatory care and social assistance jobs.
While manufacturing jobs fell from 200,800 in 2001 to 136,000 in 2010, the drop slowed in 2011, falling to 134,400. And through July of this year they popped back up to 135,400. Manufacturing jobs now account for 12 percent of total nonfarm jobs, down from 26 percent in 1990 and 18 percent in 2001. Just stopping the long-term decline in manufacturing jobs would be a shining accomplishment.
Transportation and warehousing jobs have been gradually increasing since 2001, except for a slight setback in 2009. This sector now makes up about 4.5 percent of all nonfarm jobs, up from 4 percent in 2001.
The most brilliant jobs category since 2001, though, is not measured by MDES numbers, but is captured by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (on a lagging basis). While total wage and salary employment declined by 3 percent from 2001 to 2010, “non-farm proprietor” employment jumped 43 percent.
Non-farm proprietors are sole proprietors and business partners not in a limited partnership, i.e., self-employed entrepreneurs. Included are home-based businesses, Internet stores and creative economy entrepreneurs along with traditional business owners. Non-farm proprietors represent 19 percent of all Mississippi jobs. Only the declining government sector at 22 percent is larger.
Government and education leaders should join Blueprint Mississippi in pursuit of the silver linings available in this entrepreneurial sector.
Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.