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MARKETANALYST.US / ECONOMY & WORK

Mississippi's Wage Woes Persist Despite Lower Cost of Living

In Mississippi, the average annual wage stands at $37,500, marking it as the state with the lowest wages nationwide.
PUBLISHED APR 10, 2024
Cover Image Source: Photo by Chevanon Photography | Pexels
Cover Image Source: Photo by Chevanon Photography | Pexels

Salaries in the United States exhibit an upward trajectory annually, yet the specific figures vary significantly based on factors such as age and geographic location. In Mississippi, the average annual wage stands at $37,500, marking it as the state with the lowest wages nationwide. Despite this, the lower cost of living helps mitigate the impact of rising expenses. However, challenges such as administrative hurdles and low levels of employment and education persist, making it less enticing for job seekers.

Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Life Of Pix
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Life of Pix

With only a quarter of adults holding degrees, finding qualified workers, especially in STEM fields, poses a significant challenge. Only about 3% of Mississippi workers are employed in these high-demand fields, according to BLS data. Roughly 23% of Mississippi workers have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the Census Bureau, making the state’s workforce the nation’s second-least educated, ahead of only West Virginia.

Mississippi's labor competitiveness suffers as a result, necessitating efforts to bolster the state's workforce. Governor Tate Reeves has prioritized workforce development during his tenure, leading to the establishment of Accelerate Mississippi. This organization aims to bridge the gap between employers and employees, emphasizing the importance of tailored training programs to meet industry needs.

"We were able to streamline our workforce development efforts to ensure we have a clear strategy—a strategy that will meet the needs of employers and fill the vacancies for jobs that offer above average wages," Reeves stated earlier.

Representative Image of recycling workers organised by the UNITE trade union | Getty Images | Photo by Guy Smallman
Image Source: A UNITE trade union protest | Getty Images | Photo by Guy Smallman

Despite these initiatives, challenges such as low retention rates persist, exacerbated by various external factors. While Mississippi shows promise in placing graduates into employment, retention still remains a concern. Factors like reliance on government aid contribute to lower motivation levels among workers, complicating efforts to sustain a skilled workforce.

Governor Reeves acknowledges the time required to address these challenges, emphasizing ongoing efforts to enhance education and employment opportunities. "The future of Mississippi’s economy is being decided. We’ve made record investments in workforce development and because of that, our state’s unemployment rate is at an all-time low and more Mississippians are working than ever before," he said in a statement.

"While we still have some challenges, we have to take a step back and pause and see the momentum that we have, but then move forward," Rodney Hall, a freshman Republican House member from DeSoto County said. "Keep being bold, keep pushing the needle, talking about the future. Where we're going to be not just the next half a decade or decade, but the next two decades. We have that option now."

Striking refuse and recycling workers organised by the UNITE trade union protest | Getty Images | Photo by Guy Smallman
Image Source: A UNITE trade union protest | Getty Images | Photo by Guy Smallman

Furthermore, the state's business environment faces criticisms, particularly regarding its court system and innovation infrastructure, resulting in a low ranking for business friendliness. Despite affordable labor costs and rental prices, disparities in life quality and inclusivity pose additional hurdles to attracting and retaining workers.

Mississippi finishes dead last in Business Friendliness, thanks to a court system consistently ranked among the worst for business by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. In other categories, the state is No. 49 in Economy and No. 48 in Technology and Innovation.

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