Comparing Mississippi’s labor market conditions to other states

Brett Kittredge

The latest index on labor markets in America shows Mississippi performing well in some measurements, but behind most other states overall.

The report, published by the Fraser Institute, includes a comprehensive analysis of labor market performance by state. It is based on the average of the following eight key indicators:

  • annual total employment growth
  • annual private- sector employment growth
  • total employment rate
  • private-sector employment rate
  • unemployment rate
  • long-term unemployment
  • share of involuntary part-time workers
  • output per worker (or average labor productivity)

The data was calculated using a three-year average, from 2015 through 2017.

Mississippi was rated 48th overall among the 50 states with a score of 41.4 (out of 100), ahead of just New Mexico and West Virginia. North Dakota, Utah, and Minnesota led the country with scores of 80.4, 78.3, and 75.8, respectively.

Mississippi’s score placed it last among our neighboring states, and last among SEC states. Tennessee led our neighbors with a score of 61.3 followed by Arkansas at 56.3. Alabama and Louisiana were slightly ahead of Mississippi with scores of 44.8 and 44.4, respectively. Texas led SEC states with a score of 62.8.

Mississippi’s best measurement among the eight categories was job growth, including job growth overall, and more importantly, private-sector job growth.

Mississippi’s total employment growth over the three-year period was 1.7 percent, this was 18th overall and 6th among SEC states. But total employment doesn’t differ on whether that growth was driven by the public or private sector. Looking specifically at private-sector job growth we see numbers that are slightly better for Mississippi.

Reviewing private-sector job growth, Mississippi’s employment grew by 2 percent during this period.

Mississippi was 17th nationally in job growth, trailing only Tennessee’s 3.1 percent employment job growth among our neighbors. Louisiana had the third worst employment growth, at -0.7 percent. Among all SEC states, Mississippi placed 5th.

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals similar positive numbers in terms of job growth. Employment in Mississippi grew by 1.6 percent over the previous year, behind just Tennessee among neighboring states.

But the positive news stopped there.

Mississippi’s total employment rate and total private-sector employment rate came in last among SEC states and 49th and 48th, respectively.

Total employment rates include full-time and part-time work, including private-sector employees, public-sector employees, and the self-employed, as a percentage of the working age population.

Mississippi’s total employment rate is 52.7 percent, last among all SEC states and ahead of only West Virginia. Mississippi moved up to 48th in private-sector employment rates, still last among SEC states.

North Dakota led both measures of employment rates at 69.4 percent for total employment rate and 59.2 percent for private-sector employment rate.

While employment rates measure those who are working, the unemployment rate measures those actively seeking work but unable to find it.

Mississippi’s three-year average rate of 5.8 percent is tied with Louisiana for 45th in the country and tied for last among SEC states. Alabama was slightly better at 5.5 percent, but Mississippi was far behind Arkansas’ 4.2 percent and Tennessee’s 4.7 percent.

Among other Fraser measurements:

  • Mississippi placed 43rd for long-term unemployment, those who experience unemployment for 27 weeks or long relative to the total unemployed, at 29.1 percent.
  • The state placed 38th among share of involuntary part-time workers, those who desire to work full-time but could not find it as a result of economic conditions.
  • The state placed 48th for average output per worker, which is the amount of productivity per worker.