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Government jobs trend troubling for economy

A meeting of economists in Jackson this past week to discussMississippi’s economic outlook painted a worrisome picture of thestate economic condition for the next few years. They predicted thejob market is likely to continue to be in short supply and notreturn to 2000 levels until 2015.

As state legislators begin preliminary work on the 2011-12 statefiscal budget, they would be prudent to heed Gov. Haley Barbour’swarnings of the past two years to be mindful of depending solely onthe state’s rainy day funds to stave off budget cuts. It is prudentto use reserve funds to fill gaps, but even more prudent to matchthose funds with expense cuts.

Despite those troublesome projections, economists pointed out somebright spots of major development projects in the state that willprovide jobs in the future.

One of those is the $500 million KiOR biofuels project. And one ofits plants will be located here in Southwest Mississippi.

State economists also pointed out the importance of a highlyskilled workforce and the importance of quality education toprovide necessary training.

However, a worrisome issue discussed at the conference is the factthat Mississippi leads the nation in the number of government jobsversus private sector jobs.

While the national average for government jobs is 17 percent, inour state 23 percent of jobs are government-based. State economistswarned that this was a serious trend that should be of majorconcern to lawmakers.

“We’re going to have to wean ourselves off it,” one economistsaid.

A local example of this concern is the recent decision byBrookhaven officials for an across the board pay raises for cityemployees. Those pay raises just made it a little more difficultfor private sector employers to operate here in Brookhaven – thesame employers who create and provide the jobs that build the taxbase upon which city government functions.

It is small business – not government – that is the fuel thatpowers the economy’s engine.

While government jobs are important, it is the jobs created by theprivate sector that allow a community to grow and prosper.Politicians should be encouraging small business – not discouragingit.