In the Wake of Local Elections: A Look at Local Economies

June 12th, 2013

local elections, local economies gfxAcross Mississippi, municipal elections have garnered a lot of attention from citizens and the media. Many of our communities will have new leaders in a few months, while others will continue on with the officials currently in office. In light of the attention focused on cities, we wanted to take the opportunity to look at the economies and employment of cities and counties in our state.

Each month, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security tracks data on jobs and industries. Below, we look at six cities in particular: Greenville, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Meridian, Starkville and Vicksburg, but data for every county is available monthly.

Of all the cities, Vicksburg has the smallest workforce (9,930) while Jackson has the most workers (80,730). Retail trade and healthcare are industries that reoccur in the list of largest employers in the selected group. Mississippi’s overall employment reflects a similar trend with retail trade and healthcare registering as the 2nd and 3rd largest industries. However, unlike these cities, the manufacturing sector still employs the largest amount of workers in the state by a narrow margin.

Unemployment rates in each city ranged from as high as 16.2% in Vicksburg to as low as 7.8% in Starkville this April. Greenville, Meridian and Vicksburg all registered unemployment rates above 10% meaning 1 in 10 workers are out of a job and looking for employment. Additionally, each of these cities continue to experience unemployment rates above national levels of unemployment.

Throughout many elections campaigns, jobs and quality education are two themes that regularly come up in political and policy agendas. Across Mississippi, building an education and workforce training infrastructure that prepares workers with the skills they need to access available jobs and that also prepares future workers for a college education is a persistent challenge.

An area that needs particular focus is designing workforce training programs so they consider the needs –both educational and non-educational- of low-skilled adults. MEPC has written several pieces within this area through the lens of adult education and on the job training. As leaders both new and experienced work to connect more adults with quality jobs, strategies like these will be critical for adults in need of additional skills.

-Sarah Welker, Policy analyst

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