Growth has long lagged in Mississippi, and jobless rates are high even in good times. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in March, the lowest since the U.S. Labor Department began the current system of measurement in 1976. But at the same time that the Magnolia State’s unemployment rate was at a record low, it tied for the ninth highest among the states.
Mississippi suffers from a cluster of ills that make it an economic laggard. Only 53 percent of Mississippi adults were working in 2016, the second lowest share of any state. Mississippi’s economy depends on slow-growth sectors, including government employment. While nearly 30 percent of Americans older than 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, only 21 percent of Mississippians do.
The overall size of Mississippi’s economy was smaller in 2016 than it was in 2008, and people are beginning to vote with their feet: the state’s population has fallen in the last two years.
“I think the population is falling because of the economy,” said state economist Darrin Webb. “People have had to go where the jobs are.”