With a growing cadre of manufacturers setting up shop across the Southeast, Mississippi's 1.2 million workers are primed and ready to build and design everything from cars to spaceships and beyond.
"In Mississippi, we are builders and doers," said Gov. Phil Bryant. "Look around and you will find Mississippians using advanced manufacturing techniques to make everything from high-precision jet aircraft parts and durable heavy equipment to world-renowned automobiles and the most sophisticated warships on the planet. From working with wood pulp and polymers to a multitude of high-performance materials, the capabilities of Mississippi employees are proven and impressive."
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mississippi experienced its longest sustained period of employment growth in the last 20 years, with more than 75,000 people being added to the labor market since 2012. The state's unemployment rate is at a historic low at 4.7 percent.
Three major sectors are emerging across the state: advanced manufacturing, health-care support and tourism. According to the State of Mississippi Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, advanced manufacturing makes up 83,000 jobs within the manufacturing sector as a whole, while health-care support amounts to 13,000 jobs and the tourism sector provides 187,000 jobs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the biggest skill gaps are in occupations with high-earning potential that typically require less than a four-year degree. Many of these jobs pay a salary between $35,000 and $40,000 annually for entry-level positions.
Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce ranking in 2017 placed Mississippi at No. 2 in the country for creating high-earning jobs that require less than a four-year college degree. The top industries employing workers without degrees are manufacturing, health services, transportation and utilities, construction and retail. The median salary for one of these jobs in 2015 was about $53,000. Between 1991 and 2015, Mississippi gained 20,000 blue-collar jobs and 45,000 jobs for workers without bachelor's degrees.
The Magnolia State is committed to growing its talent pipeline for both blue- and white-collar workers. In Mississippi, 83.4 percent of residents have at least a high school diploma, while 21.3 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher. In order to increase the number of degree-holding workers, the Mississippi Works Scholars Program aims to incentivize high school seniors and adults already in the workplace by offering free community college degrees, certificates and apprenticeships.
"This program will position Mississippi for long-term growth and sustainability by not only increasing the number of people participating in the workforce, but also the number of people gaining meaningful careers," said Gov. Bryant.
Another key workforce measure, the Mississippi Works Fund, helps grow new industries through customized solutions to prepare the workforce in partnership with the state's 15 community colleges. The fund will allocate $50 million over the next decade to workforce training programs across the state.
Young & Talented
From 2010 to 2016, just over 35,000 millennials (born between 1982 and 2002) left the state, making Mississippi the fastest state to lose the key demographic. But sometimes figures don't tell the whole story. During those same years, 801,799 millennials chose to remain in the state.
While social bonds might explain why many of Mississippi's millennials choose to stay in their home state, there's more to the picture. For one thing, a dollar goes a lot further in Mississippi than anywhere else in the country. In fact, an analysis by the Tax Foundation found that $100 in Mississippi is equivalent to $115.74 in spending power by average across the U.S.
A group of Mississippi millennial lawmakers, known as the Mississippi Future Caucus, is working to make the state more attractive to younger generations. In early 2018, state legislators passed a bill aimed at encouraging young people to stay in the state. The bill allows recent college graduates to receive a deduction on their state income taxes within a year of graduating from a four-year program. If they continue living and working in the state, they can receive the credit for up to three years and receive an additional two years if they purchase property.
Mississippi's opportunities for job seekers and employers alike are endless. Beyond that, the state continues to prove it has and will do what is necessary for the state's economic wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the people and businesses that call it home.