Mississippi lost 3,500 private sector jobs last month, while government added 1,100, reversing recent trends in both directions. 

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, preliminary numbers show Mississippi’s nonfarm payrolls declined from 1,171,100 in July to 1,168,700 last month. That still represents an increase of 15,000 jobs over the previous 12 months.

But the most glaring numbers from the report were the gains and losses by industry sector. Government, which accounts for nearly 21 percent of all jobs in Mississippi, added 1,100 jobs in August. Total government employment in the state now sits at 242,800. It was 240,900 a year ago. 

Industry sector changes in Mississippi over past month, July to August 2019

SectorPayroll changes
Construction-900
Education and health services-1,000
Financial activities+300
Government+1,100
Leisure and hospitality-1,500
Manufacturing-700
Professional and business services-800
Trade, transportation, and utilities+1,100
Total-2,400

Not everyone had a bad August. Each of our neighboring states added jobs last month. Alabama added 2,900 jobs, Arkansas added 2,300, Louisiana added 4,800, and Tennessee added 900. 

For Louisiana, August was a turnaround in the state. They had previously lost nearly 4,000 jobs over the past year. They are now slightly on the positive side in terms of jobs created. 

Payroll changes over the past 12 months among neighboring states

StateJobs change since Aug. 2018Job change %
Alabama+41,8002.05%
Arkansas+15,6001.3%
Louisiana+1,0000.05%
Mississippi+15,0001.3%
Tennessee+45,9001.5%

Mississippi’s numbers over the past year aren’t terrible, but they certainly need to be better for long-term economic growth. To do this, we can look at other states and what the path to sustained economic prosperity looks like.

Many will claim this will come from the government. But all government can do is redistribute wealth from one person to another as it chooses, whether that’s a social welfare program or a corporate welfare one. Government only moves money around. It doesn’t create new wealth or build a bigger pie. 

Only the private sector can do that. Individual initiative is the most powerful economic engine we have. Wealth is generated when individuals risk their own resources in hopes of meeting a need in the lives of other people or businesses, and do so in a manner that earns them a profit. That need might take the form of a new product, a more efficient service, or fresh, capital needed by a business to start or expand its operations.

It’s very easy, and very tempting, for any government official to give out tax dollars, get their picture taken, and talk about how much they are doing for you and me because of that new government initiative. 

You don’t get a shovel for reducing regulations, freeing up the healthcare industry, or reforming occupational licensing. But the most helpful thing an elected official can do is be serious about pursuing policies that will make it easier for free enterprise. We’ve seen the results of our elected officials trying to manipulate, organize, and orchestrate the economy.

At the end of the day, to generate sustainable, long-term growth, the only option is to grow the private sector through lower taxes and a lighter regulatory burden. It doesn’t make for a sexy campaign slogan and many people who work in government or depend on government for jobs and contracts won’t like to hear it.

What does that look like?

There are numerous policy ideas lawmakers can and should consider to positively change the economic trajectory of the state.

1. Reform scope-of-practice and certificate of need laws to provide more access and competition in healthcare.

2. Eliminate overburdensome occupational licensing regimes that often only serve to keep entrepreneurs out of a specific industry or field of work. 

3. Reduce our state’s regulatory burden that makes it more difficult and more expensive to operate a business in the state.