Mississippi still has fewer jobs now than before the recent recession, and wages for workers here are not keeping pace. That’s according to a new report looking at the state of working Mississippi. MPB's Evelina Burnett has more.
The report by the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University finds there are 18,400 fewer jobs now than in 2007. Real wages for everyone but the highest earners have decreased during that time.
"Wages in Mississippi, for everyone except the top 10%, have not recovered from the pre-recession level in 2007," says Father Fred Kammer, executive director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute. "So the state has not only lost jobs, thousands of jobs, but working people have not seen their income increase even back to the level of 2007. That's a very serious problem for the state."
The report also found the economic challenges in Mississippi particularly affect African-American workers.
"The rate of participation in the workforce is about the same, and has been about the same, but there’s been a big deficit in wages between white and black workers, and family income of white and black workers as well."
The report found the median wage of African American workers in Mississippi was 72 percent of white workers.
Jeanie Donovan is an economic policy specialist at the institute. She says there could be a number of reasons why wages are stagnant, including the disempowerment of workers.
"Due to high rates of unemployment in the state, Mississippi businesses are not competing to attract workers with generous wages and compensation packages," she says. "Rather, Mississippi workers are competing with each other for jobs that are available, no matter how low the pay."
Elyshia Davis is a single mother of three who recently got a job at an assisted living home, but she says it wasn’t easy to look for work.
"You search, you find a job, you get calls back for interviews, but the high demand of everybody racing for this job - it's stressful, when you go to interview and there's 10 people competing for this one job, and then you don't get it. You go to the next interview, and it's the same thing," she explains.
The report says that to rebound economically, the state must, among other things, invest more in public education and need-based assistance for higher education.