Twenty-five percent more Mississippians work for government at some level now than in 1990, and manufacturing employment has declined by 85,000 since 1990, the state’s chief economist told legislators on Tuesday in a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee.
Darrin Webb’s numbers could not have pleased anyone in either political party because they represent the opposite direction from what’s usually considered progress: a lower proportion of government jobs compared to manufacturing and other private-sector growth.
Webb reported that retail employment had climbed from about 120,000 in 1990 to 140,0000 in 2013, which is encouraging but also reflective of Mississippi’s slow population and income growth compared to some other states in the South.
No one in the Capitol need point partisan fingers because government in Mississippi has at least been divided during that 1990 to 2013 span: 18 years of Republican governors, two years of GOP legislative control, and the other years either Democratic legislative control or chambers divided between the two major parties.
Despite the best efforts of private-sector development organizations like the Mississippi Economic Council statewide, the Mississippi Development Authority in state government’s executive branch, and development partnerships and foundations at local and regional levels, Mississippi both struggles and straggles.
Webb’s presentation presents a prime opportunity to draw linking lines to other statistical measures important to the state.
The Mississippi Economic Policy Center, an independent think tank, last September reported in an analysis of health care issues that Mississippians covered by workplace health insurance plans has declined dramatically from 64.2 percent of employed individuals to about 53.7 percent in 2012. The nationwide percentage is 58.4 percent of people in the U.S. with health insurance in 2012 compared with 68.7 percent in 2000.
During the same period our state’s manufacturing employment was tumbling. Is there a correlation? It seems probable.
Hard economic facts offer no buffering information. Mississippi, despite many good decisions and some positive developments, remains behind – last in many instances.
Higher educational attainment remains the linchpin, as MEC and other strongly optimistic organizations repeatedly have affirmed.
More is required quantitatively and qualitatively of all Mississippians who seek to help our state move ahead to join the mainstream of success nationwide.