New statistics and new jobs announced this week suggest Mississippians have more career opportunities than ever, and our state’s economy is moving forward fast.
The U.S. Department of Labor says Mississippi’s non-farm, seasonably-adjusted employment set a record during August with 1,166,800 Mississippians employed.
Many economists use this scale to evaluate general economic health.
Overall, the Mississippi Employment Security Commission says our state’s unemployment rate fell last month to just 5.9 percent, down from 6.8 percent in August 2006.
That’s impressive when you consider our state is just two years past Hurricane Katrina and its devastation. There’s every reason to expect Mississippi’s job market will continue to grow, as several major industries come on line.
This week another supplier to the upcoming Toyota plant at Blue Springs, near Tupelo, has chosen to locate in Mississippi. Toyota Auto Body (TAB) will put 400 good jobs in Baldwyn, almost 150 more jobs than originally expected.
Employees at TAB will make components for the Toyota Highlander SUV that in 2009 will begin rolling off assembly lines at Toyota’s newest plant under construction nearby.
The Baldwyn facility will be a subsidiary of Toyota Auto Body which is majority-owned by Toyota. It will be called Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi, Inc.
Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi will be more than a plant manufacturing components for vehicles built by Toyota. TAB can produce whole cars. In fact, TAB routinely assembles vehicles for Toyota.
That means the Baldwyn plant technically will be Mississippi’s fourth auto plant including Nissan at Canton, Toyota at Blue Springs and the PACCAR plant – another facility under construction near Columbus that will build Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks.
Most auto plant suppliers are independent companies. Toyota Auto Body and other Toyota suppliers could have chosen to locate in nearby states like Tennessee or Alabama.
They chose Mississippi because Mississippians – particularly in the Golden Triangle and Tupelo area – have a growing reputation for welcoming and supporting new jobs, particularly in the automotive and aerospace fields.
Other areas of the state are seeing employment improvements, too. Rankin County, near Jackson, and DeSoto County, near Memphis, have unemployment rates at 3.8 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively – considerably better than the already low national average, which now hovers around 4.5 percent. When you consider that 4 percent unemployment nationally is generally considered “full employment,” these two Mississippi counties are exemplary. The Coast’s job market continues to recover rapidly as the tourism industries and military-related sectors expand.
We continue to focus on other locations still struggling, where employment rates are not what we want to see. I feel strongly that Eastern Mississippi, Southwest Mississippi and the Pine Belt have a lot of unexplored potential, with job opportunities yet to be fully realized.
We continue working with officials in the Delta to help folks there find jobs outside the traditional agricultural sector. In fact, I’m working to provide a half million dollar grant for Mid Delta Regional Airport in Greenville to further develop commercial air service.
As the Ranking Republican Senator on the Senate’s Aviation Subcommittee, I know how critical airports and air service can be to courting new employers, and this grant will certainly help the area better position itself to attract jobs.
We’ve got some work to do, but the good employment numbers and new plant announcements are overwhelming proof: Mississippi is moving forward fast.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email