By Bill Crawford / Guest Columnist
The Meridian Star
In simple terms, state economies provide three types of jobs. The private sector provides goods producing and service jobs. The public sector provides government jobs.
Goods producing jobs – manufacturing, construction, mining, forestry, agriculture – make up much of our “base” economy – the critical part that attracts money and generates wealth.
Nationally, goods producing jobs have been in decline. In 2010 total government jobs surpassed goods producing jobs.
In Mississippi, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Quarterly Wages and Employment shows goods producing jobs in Mississippi declined 18 percent from 2003 through 2012, allowing the number of federal, state, and local government jobs to surpass goods producing jobs. (This does not include military jobs which are not covered by this BLS census.)
Goods producing jobs in 2012 accounted for 19 percent of all jobs while total government jobs accounted for 22 percent.
Goods producing jobs include three major categories. All three declined – manufacturing, down 25 percent; construction, down 4 percent; and natural resources and mining, down 5 percent. (Limited BLS data through June 2013 showed construction rebounding.)
Five of the seven major categories of service jobs also declined – information, down 17 percent; financial activities, down 3 percent; trade, transportation and utilities, down 2 percent; leisure and hospitality, down 1 percent; and other, down 14 percent.
Only two service categories showed increases, but they showed large increases. Professional and business services jumped 23 percent, and education and health services jumped 21 percent. Together these two categories provide 21 percent of all jobs in Mississippi.
The largest single category of private sector jobs at 20 percent is the trade, transportation and utilities category, which also includes retail and wholesale trade and warehousing.
The highest average wage in 2012 came in the federal job category at $63,093. The lowest at $16,454 came in the leisure and hospitality category, which includes food, accommodation, and gaming. Next highest at $44,799 came in the financial activities category. Next lowest at $32,298 came in the trade, transportation, and utilities category. State government average wage was $41,870; local government was $32,441.
What does all this tell us?
First, our economy is still recovering from the Great Recession with average total jobs in 2012 still below the 2003 level. Second, our share of all-important goods producing jobs continues to slip, weakening our base economy. Third, we are more dependent on government jobs. Fourth, our average wages are low. Fifth, Governor Phil Bryant is right to focus on health services as a prime economic driver.
It should also be emphasized that most of the jobs in our two fast growing categories – professional and business services and education and health services – require highly educated workers.
Any interested in researching this data should go to www.bls.gov/data/ and scroll down to “State and County Employment and Wages.” Click on “multi-screen data search.” You will need a spreadsheet too.
Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.