While just a handful of the 19,000 jobs added in Mississippi over the past year have been in government, it still accounts for an unusually high percentage of all jobs in the state. 

According to the July data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of nonfarm payrolls, government accounted for 20.5 percent of all jobs in the state. Or more simply, one out of every five jobs are in government. 

How does this compare to other states?

Well, we’re doing worse than most, especially the states with the strongest economic engines. Among neighboring states, government accounted for 18.6 percent of jobs in Alabama, 16.6 percent in Arkansas, 16.4 percent in Louisiana, and 14.1 percent in Tennessee. 

StatePercentage of government jobs
Alabama18.6%
Arkansas16.6%
Louisiana16.4%
Mississippi20.5%
Tennessee14.1%

Mississippi’s numbers are down slightly from July 2018 when government accounted for 20.9 percent of jobs. 

There isn’t a clear distinction between the political leanings of a state, nor is size the deciding factor. But this is part of a trend among the poorest states in the country. In West Virginia, 20.3 of all payrolls were in government. In New Mexico, it’s 22.1 percent. Alaska also had a high number – almost a quarter – but it’s in a unique position. 

Does this really matter?

So, while we are constantly debating and entire campaigns are run on the premise of making government larger, we can simply look at other states and see that is not the path to economic prosperity. 

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.