Low-wage Jobs Fuel State Economic Growth | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Low-wage Jobs Fuel State Economic Growth

The joint Legislative Budget Committee wrapped up its hearings today at the Woolfolk Building.

The joint Legislative Budget Committee wrapped up its hearings today at the Woolfolk Building. Photo by Courtesy Rose Pendleton

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Darrin Webb

Right now, Mississippi's economy is doing better than the U.S. on average—but probably not for long.

Darrin Webb, the state economist, told members of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee this morning that, while the nation's real gross-domestic product grew at a slow 1.6 percent in the past year, Mississippi's GDP grew at 1.9 percent.

"We are outpacing the nation," Webb told the committee.

Webb added that, in 2012, Mississippi added jobs for the first time since the beginning of the Great Recession. Mississippi "has come late to the party" in terms of job growth, Webb said.

While the state added 25,000 jobs in the past year, the 8.5 percent unemployment rate in Mississippi remains much higher than the national average, where unemployment has fallen to 7.3 percent. Also, Webb believes most of the jobs Mississippi added have been low-paying, part-time or temporary.

Webb said he doubts Mississippi will continue to outpace the nation in GDP growth.

The JLBC concluded four days of hearings today. Before Webb gave his presentation, the committee heard from the state Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Revenue.

Trudy Fisher, the executive director of MDEQ, asked for a slight increase in her agency's budget to $260.7 million for the 2015 fiscal year from $258.7 million in the current fiscal year.

Only 6 percent of MDEQ's budget comes from state general funds, which have decreased more than 25 percent since 2008, Fisher said.

The Department of Revenue requested an additional $38.7 million for its budget for the 2015 fiscal year, primarily to beef up its collections personnel.

The JLBC will release its budget recommendations in December.

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