March Job Watch

March 8th, 2013

The U.S. added 236,000 jobs in the month of February according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today. The increase in employment led the unemployment rate to tick down to 7.7% nationally. The nation’s job growth represents a positive trend as the BLS reported employment has risen by an average of 195,000 jobs per month for the last 3 months.

While it will be a few more weeks before Mississippi’s employment numbers for February are released, the state has not exhibited the same magnitude of job growth as the rest of the nation. The table details job growth from the beginning of 2010 to the end of 2012 for the U.S., South and Mississippi. In the South, employment has risen by 2 million jobs over this time period- equal to 3% growth for the region over this time. The nation’s employment advanced by a slightly larger percentage at 3.7%. However, Mississippi’s employment has risen a more modest 0.8% over the same time period. 


About 40% of Mississippi’s workers live and work in 4 main urban areas: Gulfport, Jackson, Pascagoula, and Hattiesburg. The chart shows that of these 4 urban areas only Pascagoula had an unemployment rate higher than the state average in late 2012. Jackson’s metro area had the lowest unemployment rate of these areas at 7.5%.

All of Mississippi’s urban areas continue to have higher unemployment rates than before the 2007 recession, but a presentation from IHL’s University Research Center shows that unemployment has fallen in these areas over the last year. However, considerable job growth needs to occur in both rural and urban areas to account for all the jobs lost through the recession.

Due to the state’s weak economic recovery, Mississippi has experienced a decline in average annual employment for the last 5 years. This is the first time Mississippi has experienced consistent employment loss for such an extended period of time.¹

The strength of the state’s employment growth affects the careers of workers, the economic security of families and the revenue available to fund services for Mississippians. Measures of Mississippi’s employment continue to show the state lagging behind the nation and the region in jobs added.  Supporting Mississippi’s employers in hiring and training low-skill or unemployed workers, and ensuring supports are in place for workers enduring a periods of unemployment are both critical to insulating Mississippi families from economic insecurity until the state’s employment growth becomes more robust.

Author: Sarah Welker, Policy Analyst

¹Institutions of Higher Learning. University Research Center. Mississippi Business. February 2013.

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