Manufacturers powering jobs recovery in Mississippi


Manufacturing staffing in Mississippi has increased over the past year.
Manufacturing staffing in Mississippi has increased over the past year.

Manufacturing staffing in the U.S. continues to pick up, as companies benefit from robust demand from abroad and an improving economic climate, experts say.

The U.S. manufacturing sector was negatively impacted by the financial and housing crises. Companies across the nation were forced to contend with a sudden drop in demand, and their output fell as a result. However, the manufacturing sector has emerged from the depths of the recession with a renewed sense of vigor, as exports rise and demand rises from firms, especially those in Brazil, China and other developing countries.

In Mississippi, lawmakers and public officials have struggled to spur hiring in the wake of the recession. Still, the state's unemployment rate has decreased since June 2011, when it registered 10.8 percent. The state's unemployment rate currently registers at 9.5 percent, which is higher than the national average of 8.2 percent, but represents a significant climb in employment in just under a year.

Manufacturing staffing in Mississippi has increased at a rapid clip since the beginning of the year, and experts assert the rise in manufacturing activity has been one of the single most significant contributors affecting economic growth. According to the results of a recent study conducted by Manufacturers' News, which supplies state manufacturing directories, industrial employment in Mississippi climbed by roughly a half percent over the past 12 months.

The group's report, the 2012 Mississippi Manufacturers Register, states that the state is now home to more than 3,000 manufacturers employing roughly 172,000 workers. Such firms have benefited from the nascent recovery, and they are ratcheting up their hiring as they work to keep pace with soaring demand for their goods, according to Tom Dubin, the president of Manufacturers' News.

"The recovery is gaining momentum in Mississippi and across the U.S.," he said in a statement. "The state's friendly business environment has been a draw for a variety of enterprises, particularly in the auto sector."

Public officials in the state have touted the strength of the manufacturing sector. A number of foreign and domestic companies have announced over the past few months that they plan to expand in Mississippi, illustrating how a growing number of firms are choosing to expand their footprint in the state.

Toyota, for instance, is set to open a new assembly plant in Blue Springs. That facility will employ more than 2,000 workers, according to the company. What's more, Olin Corp. also said it had decided to open a new production plant in Oxford, a decision that will further bolster manufacturing staffing. Stion, a clean energy company, is also eyeing growth in Mississippi, as the company opened a manufacturing outpost in Hattiesburg.

The new study from Manufacturers' News determined that transportation equipment is now the largest employer in the industrial sector, as it accounts for 24,143 jobs in the state. That figure represents a 3.3 percent increase from the same period the year prior. The food products manufacturing segment has also seen strong growth, according to the study, with employment rising 4.2 percent to 19,565 jobs.

Lastly, the study found that Pascagoula is a hotbed of manufacturing staffing activity. The city is tops in the state in industrial employment, as more than 14,300 people work in manufacturing in the community. Laurel is also at the center of the manufacturing boom, as employing grew 2.6 percent in the city to roughly 7,545 workers.