OUR OPINION: Federal funds remain important to state jobs

State economist Darrin Webb, told legislative leaders Thursday that Mississippi’s jobs recovery from the recession had finally picked up some steam, and Gov. Phil Bryant optimistically boosted Mississippi’s economic strength in response.

The quantifiable rebound has been a long time coming for Mississippi, which usually drops late and rises late in times of economic stress nationwide.

Webb’s remarks to the Legislative Budget Committee should be well taken. He enunciated facts about the rise in jobs numbers during the past year: 1.124 million Mississippians employed in July, 25,000 more than a year before, but below the 1.16 million workers in February 2008, shortly before what’s called the “great recession” hit.

Every job – as Plantersville’s leaders and residents celebrated a new industry in town earlier this week – is important.

Even as Mississippi can see light ahead on what has been a long, dark road, more reasons for vigilance need to be noted in news out of Virginia.

Virginia has one of the nation’s strongest standards of living; its median household income exceeds $62,000 and it has grown substantially in population in recent decades.

It is also heavily reliant on the federal government, which employs one in five of Virginia’s working citizens.

Yet, what Washington gives it also takes away.

The Washington Post reported Thursday morning that “Virginia’s median household income fell more than 2 percent last year …The median income for Virginia households fell in a single year by $1,400, to less than $62,000, the Census Bureau said. Adjusting for inflation, that is almost $1,000 less than it was in 2000.”

Mississippi also is heavily reliant on federal money. Mississippi has more than 49,000 federal employees and retirees. The 1st Congressional District, which includes Northeast Mississippi, had almost 10,000 federal employees and retirees in 2010, the Eye on Washington website reports. Its sources include the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Vulnerability to the loss of federal money and the jobs it supports in Mississippi should be a consideration of our state’s delegation as it approaches votes that could lead to a government shutdown over partisan disagreement about the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare.

Mississippi can do everything right internally for private-sector development, but if federal funding ends – for any reason – the impact will be negative and quick.

  • Kevin

    And Mississippians recently wanted to secede again.

  • charlie

    Speaker Gunn recently blamed Washington for Mississippi lagging behind other states in economic recovery. For the state that gets more assistance from Washington that most states, I guess that makes perfect sense. Not!