Mississippi Today culled information from nearly 39,000 job openings on the state-funded job search engine called Mississippi Works during a snapshot in time in July 2019 and nearly 36,000 openings during a snapshot in January 2020. We analyzed the types of positions, the companies hiring, the pay and the work locations. Below are our findings. View the raw data we collected here. Read more about how the website works and our methodology here.

The labor surplus

While there are more job openings than unemployed people to fill them across the country, that is not true in Mississippi, according to federal labor statistics, and especially not in some rural counties. We compared the number of job openings we could pull off Mississippi Works in July and the average number of unemployed people broken down by county. In a majority of counties, there are at least twice as many unemployed people as openings on the website. In seven, there are more than 10 people competing for each opening.

The positions

When an employer lists a job within Mississippi Works, the listing is assigned a Standard Occupational Classification, or a position title, that comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau compiles information on these positions and publishes the average wages these workers earn in every state. Sometimes, the classifications within the state website are inaccurate — a law clerk position labeled “lawyer,” for example. But because the job titles employers enter on Mississippi Works are not standardized, these classifications are the best way we can analyze the types of jobs within the website. Most employers also do not advertise the pay of their open positions, so we use these titles to analyze the average wages of the openings.

In both July and January, meat cutters, farm workers and retail supervisors were among the most common positions on the website.

The pay

The median pay for the positions open on the website, per Bureau of Labor Statistics using 2018 data, was about $26,000 in July and $29,000 in January. This is far less than the $39,000 that the average Mississippi worker earns.

Less than half of openings on the website in both July and January contained actual advertised pay, listed as an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or annual wage. Mississippi Today converted each wage into an annual salary and found the openings paid an average of about $23,000. Less than two percent of the jobs paid more than $50,000.

The companies

Companies who list job openings on Mississippi Works may choose to omit their names. We looked at the employers who identified themselves and had the largest number of open positions within the website during the snapshot. On both days, the top three were Dollar General, the U.S. Census Bureau, which is staffing up for the 2020 census, and McDonalds.

The locations

A fraction of the job openings on the Mississippi Works website were located out-of-state. While many of the jobs are concentrated in the capital city, other cities with a concentration of openings on the website come as a surprise. In July, during the farming season, out-of-state farms had far more job openings on the site than in January after the season ended. Florida Pacific Farms in Dover, Fla., posted nearly 1,200 openings on Mississippi Works for farm workers in June of 2019. In January, Pontotoc, a north Mississippi town of less than 6,000, was home to more than 1,200 openings on the website, a mix of positions in mostly food service, retail and production.

Explore the data further here.

Reporters Alex Rozier and Erica Hensley contributed to this report.

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Anna Wolfe is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who covers inequity and corruption in government safety net programs, nonprofit service providers and institutions affecting the marginalized. She began reporting for Mississippi Today in 2018, after she approached the editor with the idea of starting a poverty beat, the first of its kind in the state. Wolfe has received national recognition for her years-long coverage of Mississippi’s welfare program, in which she exposed new details about how officials funneled tens of millions of federal public assistance funds away from needy families and instead to their friends, families and the pet projects of famous athletes. Since joining Mississippi Today, she has received several national honors including the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, the Livingston Award, two Goldsmith Prizes for Investigative Reporting, the Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, the Sacred Cat Award, the Nellie Bly Award, the John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award, the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, the Sidney Award, the National Press Foundation’s Poverty and Inequality Award and others. Previously, Wolfe worked for three years at Clarion Ledger, Mississippi’s statewide newspaper, where she covered city hall, health care, and wrote stories about hunger and medical billing, earning the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism two years in a row. Born and raised on the Puget Sound in Washington State, Wolfe moved to Mississippi in 2012 to attend Mississippi State University, where she currently serves on the Digital Journalism Advisory Board. She has lived in Jackson, Mississippi since graduating in 2014.