by Sarah Welker
(Originally published in the Mississippi Economic Policy Center blog)
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Mississippi’s monthly employment data on March 30th. The release presented a mixed picture of Mississippi’s labor market as the unemployment rate declined markedly, but still registers above national and regional rates.
Positive signs for Mississippi’s job market:
- Mississippi’s unemployment rate declined by a larger margin than any other state in February. The state’s unemployment rate came in at 9.5%, a decline of 0.5% from January.
- Mississippi’s unemployment rate is lower than one year ago, down 1.0% since February 2011.
- Mississippi’s labor force has grown by 5,300 workers since February 2011 as individuals re-enter the workforce and look for employment.
- Looking back at 2011, Mississippi saw a gain of 6,525 jobs over a 12-month period.
Signs that additional recovery is still needed:
- Mississippi’s has 69,600 fewer jobs than at the start of the 2007 recession.
- Mississippi’s unemployment rate was still above the national rate of 8.3% in February.
- Mississippi’s February unemployment rate registered above neighboring Mid South states (see chart).
An article on the Clarion Ledger last weekend focused on industries and occupations experiencing job growth across the state. Jobs in health care, business services and education are all sited as having substantial growth and/or openings. As Mississippi’s job market recovers from the recession, Mississippi can take several steps to prepare low-skill adults for advancement along a career path to higher wages including:
- Enhance funding for Adult Basic Education and GED courses, so more support staff are available to promote student transitions from a GED into college-level classes.
- Imbed occupational and vocational skills content into adult basic education and remedial courses at community colleges, so students connect learning in math and reading with potential careers.
- Provide college credit for learning attained on the job, so adults can progress through degree programs at a faster pace.
For more recommendations for advancing the skills and job opportunities for Mississippi’s working adults see MEPC’s policy brief on sector initiatives here.