Mississippi leaders explore ways to boost state’s workforce

Governor's workforce summit

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Governor Phil Bryant hosted the Governor’s Workforce Summit at the Jackson Marriott Wednesday. The unemployment rate is what you’ll most frequently hear Governor Bryant reference.

“When I came in office it was 9.4 percent," said Bryant. "Today, it’s 4.7 percent.”

But what about the labor participation rate? The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Mississippi’s is next to last among states, with just 55.8 percent. That’s the the percentage of Mississippi’s available workforce that has a job or is looking for one. So we asked the governor, how do you engage those who aren’t even looking?

“I think you have to start looking at non-traditional ways of doing that," Bryant said. "We talked today about childcare and how we can make sure that we have women who are looking for a job but can’t find a place to put their children. Number one reason that women aren’t working now is childcare.”

Sephora is a company that’s recently put a distribution center in Olive Branch and made a commitment to hiring people with disabilities.

“When you think about 80 percent of individuals with disabilities can’t find jobs," explained Sephora Human Resource Vice President Tom Gustafson. "So, it’s a labor market that’s untapped today and we believe that by thinking outside the box and partnering with the Department of Rehab Services we can try and close that gap as much as we can.”

Still, just two days after Bryant bragged on the state’s economic advances in his State of the State address, Nissan announced it’s cutting 700 jobs.

“The good news is, we are looking at people all across the state of Mississippi," Bryant said. "Continental Tire will soon be hiring. These contract workers may find better jobs.”

Meanwhile, the state’s community colleges are still working to provide the skills those who are looking to enter the workforce may need to fit the job description.

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