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9 years after the recession began, some states have not obtained

MERIDIAN, Miss. – They call it is not obtained — a handful of the member states where the labour market, nine years later, are still struggling back to where they were before the recession.

That is true in Mississippi, where the number of jobs and the overall size of the economy remain below the level of 2008. In contrast to the states that long since sprinted forward, Mississippi is struggling with slow economic growth and the slipping of the population in a place that’s rarely at the peak of the economic health.

Miguel Brown, despite the family ties to his hometown near the Alabama border, is working on an oil rig off the Texas coast, behind the higher wages.

“It’s rough,” said the 49-year-old Brown. “There is not a lot of jobs in the Meridian, especially the pay.”

Not only the Mississippi, but also Alabama, Michigan, New Mexico and West Virginia are still short of pre-recession job levels by several measures. That is in contrast with the states, including Colorado, North Dakota, Texas and Utah, where the employment increased. Nationally, job numbers surpassed pre-recession peaks in the middle of 2014, about the same time Mississippi was saddled with the nation’s highest unemployment rate.

Emilia Istrate, which produces an annual report on how the local economies are made for the National Association of Counties, said the recovery is widespread, but “unequal.”

“It explains why so many Americans don’t feel the national economic figures. It is because they live in one of these places is still in recovery or struggling,” Istrate said.

The growth has long remained behind in Mississippi, and the unemployment rate is high, even in good times. The unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent in March, the lowest since the U.S. Labor Department began its current system of measurement in 1976. But at the same time that the Magnolia State, the unemployment rate was at a low point, tied for the ninth highest of the member states.

Mississippi suffers from a cluster of ailments that it is an economic laggard. Only 53 percent of Mississippi adults were working in 2016, the second lowest share of any state. Mississippi’s economy is dependent on the slow growing 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 total size of the Mississippi-the economy was smaller in 2016 than in 2008, and people are beginning to vote with their feet: the state’s population has dropped in the past two years.

“I think that the population decreases because of the economy,” said state economist Darrin Webb. “People have to go where the jobs are.”

That does not mean that things have not improved for many people. Economists have long advised that a better-educated, more productive, could encourage the growth. The state of the community colleges last year started to offer not only the adult education classes on the high school drop-outs, but also free training courses for career certification. Kathryn Winfield, 37, was one of the first graduates.

Back to the workforce after two years spent caring for her dying father, she earned her high school equivalency diploma and became a certified nursing assistant. After almost a decade of the minimum wage of $7.25 hour working as a cashier, Winfield is now more than $13 an hour, helping care for patients in a nursing home. She said that the extra pay can help her better provide for her three children.

In some ways, Mississippi’s economy has healed from the scars of the recession. Archie McDonnell, Jr., the CEO of the Citizens National Bank, said loan demand rebounded above prerecession highs at Meridian’s largest financial institution, and the bank’s profit more than tripled their bottom in 2011.

“People who just decided, the recession is over, I must get back to running my company and invest and do things,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell said he is hopeful about the investment in the Meridian, pointing to a $50 million museum will be built in the town, an investor searching for the redevelopment of a vacant 16-story art-deco skyscraper in a hotel, and the new owner of the city mall.

The number of Mississippians who report being employed, the peak of the precession high when April data is released Friday. But the employer, the payroll, another way to measure employment, stabilized last year and remains about 1 percent below where they were before Mississippi’s economy to the south in the beginning of 2008.

It is not only the number of jobs, but what they pay. Employees who have an average of $669 a week in Meridian and the surrounding Lauderdale County by the end of 2016, compared with $739 provincial and € 1,027 nationally.

Good wages are the reason that Brown says he left his hometown of Meridian.

“These are my roots,” Brown said. “Meridian will always be home, no doubt, but you have to make ends meet and you can’t do it here.”

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Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy. Read his work on https://www.apnews.com/search/Jeff_Amy.

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