Sunday, April 11, 2021

Bill Crawford: State Indifference Leads to "Hungriest County"

With unemployment decreasing, jobs growing, and state tax revenues up, rosy days lie ahead for Mississippi’s economy. “The outlook for our economy is pretty optimistic for the state and for the nation,” state economist Corey Miller told Mississippi Today.

But not for all parts of the state.

Consider Jefferson County in southwest Mississippi. No boom looming there. This rural county, population 6,990, looks to continue suffering persistently high unemployment. The unemployment rate for 2021 averages 16.3%, higher than last year; the highest average since 2014. The state averages 6.2%.

Job numbers continue to shrink, down every year since 2013, down 28.5% from 2010, and down 48% from 2000.The latest non-farm employer based jobs report (Sept. 2020) showed 954 jobs in Jefferson County with 539 of them state or local government jobs and only 415 private sector jobs. Notably, only 30 were goods producing jobs (manufacturing, natural resources and mining, or construction).

The latest labor force participation rate was just 34.6%. The average annual wage was $34,080 which was 25% lower than the average state wage of $40,687.

The Clarion-Ledger revealed another dismal factoid last week. An October report by Feeding America identified Jefferson County as “the hungriest county in the U.S.” Data showed the county as the only one in America with a 30% food insecurity rating. (Ratings based on poverty, unemployment, home ownership, disability prevalence, and cost of food index.)

Ding. Another new low rings up for Mississippi.


Mississippi has eight counties, including Jefferson, that lost 10% or more of jobs from 2011 through 2019 and face double-digit unemployment today. All lost population over the past 10 years. All have high poverty levels. And, yes, all have high food insecurity ratings. These counties are Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Jefferson, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, and Wilkinson.

That’s 10% of Mississippi’s 82 counties with wilting economies and growing human plight.

Now, these conditions did not occur overnight but trends have worsened over the last decade. You might think that somewhere along the way the state would have adopted focused, well-staffed, and well-funded programs to turn things around. 

Nope. And that’s a sad story in itself.

Republicans in control of state government have shown little interest in providing more than limited economic development help for poor, heavily Democratic counties like these.

It’s one thing to have access to programs, it’s quite another to have professional help to implement programs. For the most part, job attraction and retention efforts and related development activities have been left up to each county. Left alone, counties with withering economies have little hope for a better future. The past decade proves the point.

Sad to imagine a state with leaders indifferent to the plight of struggling counties. Yet that appears to have been the case in Mississippi.

And leaves us with “the hungriest county in the U.S.”

State leaders should be ashamed...and finally take action.

“And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” – Isaiah 58:10.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.



Anonymous said...

Indifference to the poor, especially 'those' poor is such a grand tradition in Mississippi. And Mississippi's ruling class is so very loyal to their traditions.

Anonymous said...


For the past 28 years, Bennie Thompson has represented every one of these counties (except Wilkinson).


Anonymous said...

The counties mentioned here have some of the richest dirt in the country yet these residents are some of the most hungry? Ironic.

Anonymous said...

I remember stories along these lines about Delta counties many years ago. Particularly Tunica county. Je$$ie Jack$on went there and dubbed it "America's Ethiopia"

The casinos came along and were determined to hire as many locals as possible. Problem was, they couldn't find literate people to train. Many people there had never held a job in their life and no one in their family had ever held a job going back as far as anyone could remember.

My point is, there's never going to be anything in Jefferson County. You may as well be standing in Death Valley lamenting the lack of job opportunities.

And as for "hungry", I spent quite a bit of time there back when asbestos litigation was in its heyday. I can tell you first hand,there aren't any hungry people there and in fact, a goodly number of them are morbidly obese.

You might think that somewhere along the way the state would have adopted focused, well-staffed, and well-funded programs to turn things around.

That's the liberal answer for everything: "well-funded programs". No amount of funds is going to turn Jefferson County into a jobs center. No company executive in his right mind would ever locate a facility there. It is hundreds and hundreds of acres of farmland and marsh. It is quintessentially rural. If you live in Jefferson County and you want a full-time, living-wage job, you're gonna have to move or be prepared to commute.

Anonymous said...

Historically all the financial resources in these counties which would be necessary to "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps" have been concentrated in the hands of a very few. Mostly old money. If by good fortune the young obtain higher education and training they generally leave for greener pastures, leaving the uneducated poor to fend for themselves. The best program would be one which gives incentives to the young graduates to stay or return home and build their fortunes in those counties... Good luck with that in this legislature.

Anonymous said...

12:19 pm Bennie Thompson doesn't control the State dispersion of federal dollars and the Senate hasn't been helpful in passing House bills.

Your bell has no ringer.

Anonymous said...

For the majority of that time either Barbour, Bryant or Tater has been governor. Or Lt governor during that time ....hmm

Anonymous said...

The present poverty of the Black Belt that is the Delta can be summed up in two words: Jim Crow

Reconstruction never happened in Mississippi, and especially for many thousands of freedmen/women who could likely trace their roots to a plantation that once existed not to far from where they presently live now.

Jim Crow laws with an assist from the White Citizens Councils concentrated the state's wealth into the pockets of those whites they wished to have the power for 150 years after the surrender at Appomattox Court House. It still continues today....deliberate indifference by racist state leaders who intend to squeeze the state's educational systems for every dime they can to go where they wish, and most certainly not to those counties in the Black Belt -and that probably deserve it more than anyone.

Mississippi ought to get its house in order, because this current federal administration is already seriously considering slave reparations - and you had better guess who they're going to send the bill to.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered why can't the government relocate some of these people to more prosperous states instead of building public housing for them in areas where there is no chance of employment.

Just a normal dude said...

Jefferson County has the greatest gift God has ever given to mankind. Fertile farmland. People around the world will pay money for everything they grow. If people are poor in Jefferson County its because they chose to be poor.

FYI: At one time there were more jobs than people in Tunica County and their unemployment rate was over 10%.

Anonymous said...

In typical liberal, socialist fashion, Crawford blames others for someone else's plight. No one will ever prosper to the extent they could, blaming others and looking to others to do it for them.

Anonymous said...

That may be 10% of the counties, but represent a much lower percent of Mississippi’s population. Those counties have tiny populations. Shouldn’t the people there move somewhere else to find work? Populations have migrated for centuries. These counties are very rural and agriculture is mechanized now. Few jobs. Factories in Mississippi have had to hire Mexicans and immigrants because they can’t find labor. If someone wants to work, they can find a job most of the time.

Anonymous said...

@1:13 Speaking of "old money" wealth, check out this place near the river in Jefferson County. This house would not look out of place in Beverly Hills or West Palm Beach. I've never seen it on the ground -- it's guarded by a big ol' heavy gate. But I've flown over it.,+MS/@31.6562398,-91.3781898,136m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x8628b01df8931547:0x960cc88936798bd8!8m2!3d31.7157817!4d-90.9820668

Anonymous said...

When China was granted most favored trading status under Clinton, the giant sucking sound of jobs removed a way to make a living from most of western Mississippi (and much of the U.S.). Since then, the remaining people have figured a way to survive off a number of government programs. And to "teach a man to fish", they need to be relocated to some cities where there is a pond with fish in it.

Anonymous said...

147 still haven’t proven ole Bennie has done anything? Are you saying he has no influence on the state legislature?

Anonymous said...

The biggest question in this article is: has Crawford ever spent an hour in Fayette?

This is yet another typical leftist diatribe.(Emotional as usual,and without real facts).

For 15 years I worked in Fayette/Jefferson County twice per week, about six hours a day. That county does indeed have some very fine people !

However, I never saw anyone "hungry".
Most were actually fat.

Not chubby, not plump, not fluffy, not "big boned" ...
but FAT .

Jessie Jackson's comparison to such Mississippi Counties as Ethiopia is a joke. The Ethiopian people truly are hungry. They couldn't dream of the free government money received by many families in Jefferson County each month. Plus, the Ethiopians seem to have more pride in their surroundings.

The so called "Reconstruction era" and the Jim Crow laws are ancient history.

These counties have been governing themselves for over 50 years now.
All the time, refusing to listen to any advice from anyone other than Democratic Party.

(BTW, the Council Schools of the 60's & 70's had zero effect on the current state of affairs of these towns & counties in 2021).

Anonymous said...

if its the hungriest county in the U. S. why are 65% of the people there obese?

Discovering Causation said...

The true irony (and pity) is that one of most powerful black men in congress has represented Jefferson County for thirty years. Couple that with the fact that the County Strong-Man for five decades was Charles Evers.

And just a few short years ago, Jefferson County, Mississippi was arguably the center of jackpot-justice in the United States, with every white, plaintiff-lawyer who could find it on a map opting to get his case tried there. And there were more Cadillacs in Fayette than pajama bottoms in the aisles of Wal Mart.

You people who are firing blanks at non-existent racism and systemic uncaring attitudes in Mississippi need to drill a bit deeper and focus your magnifying glasses on absence of the family unit, lack of work ethic, aversion to employment, reliance on government programs and non-existence of role models.

Jefferson County, with Fayette as its hub, is not unlike South Jackson, West Jackson, Tunica and Mound Bayou. And Mound Bayou, as an example has, over the past half century, had more federal money, grant money and foundation money poured into it than any town in the Southeastern United States.

Someone might tell 2:52 that Jefferson County is nowhere near the Mississippi Delta. It's way past time to stop blaming every self-imposed community ill on Jim Crow, White Councils and the white man, in general. Industry is not going to locate where nobody wants to work. Period.

Anonymous said...

Comedian Sam Kinnison said it best when talking about Live Aid 30. 0 and recurring issues of hunger in the African desert

Anonymous said...

And these counties continue to vote for Bennie. All he he to tell them is he will keep their welfare checks coming. He could care or less about them

Anonymous said...

It’s not the role of state government to help those in these counties who are not personally responsible for the circumstances they find themselves.

Anonymous said...

The tried-and-true success formula for Southern writers, is to become a Social Justice Warrior/Poverty Pimp. Otherwise it's nearly impossible to get published and make any money.

When Harper Lee and Hodding Carter were doing that, the field was not overcrowded. Today, the FIELD IS OVERCROWDED. It's called MARKET SATURATION. Everybody jumped on that bandwagon. 'Theory of Poverty Pimping', is probably a 101-level course, now, in Southern schools of Journalism. 'Applied Poverty Pimping', I'd imagine, is reserved for those seeking graduate degrees. The market for the finished product, is shrinking, by the way. I hear that Carter's rag, the aptly-acronymic 'DDT' (Delta Democrat Times) now consists of two pages - and is no longer "a daily".

The percentage of the population hard-wired for guilt and altruism, is shrinking. That altruistic and guilt-susceptible portion of the population is declining in absolute numbers, too. They're being replaced by people who won't give a flyin' puck, no matter how hard you try to guilt them into caring. The new folks might pretend to care, if there's something in it for them. But they won't really care. So there's less and less of a market for the whinging drivel that the SJW Poverty Pimp writers are writing.

As for the supposed "Food Insecurity", just scroll back up, and look at the criteria used for the "calculations" yielding that 30% statistic. Think about those criteria. You won't have to think too hard, to conclude that the quoted statistic is just another bit of Poverty Pimp HOGWASH.

Anonymous said...

" County Strong-Man for five decades was Charles Evers " .

Chuck was a brilliant politician.
I met him more than a few times.
He could "charm" everyone better than Bill Clinton.

But he successfully played all factions against each other.

And I'm sure the man did care about his constituency, but I was always under the impression he was more concerned about White dollars than Black votes.

Kingfish said...

China and Mexico took away jobs from those areas. Then there is the modern trend of economic development.

Companies have gotten more picky. They want areas that have a good educational system, a competent workforce, and believe it or not, an airport. They want an area where there are other companies. Such a feature means there will be a larger management pool for recruiting.

Good 2015 article on this subject

Poverty Pimping 101 said...

Kingfish: I worked for years in the Natchez-Fayette area. Please tell us about these Jefferson County jobs you think China and Mexico 'took away'. To my recollection, there has never been an industrial enterprise in Jefferson County, Mississippi. And add to that the fact that there have been very few commuting to available jobs in nearby Port Gibson and Natchez over the years.

Alcorn State University is close-by. Anybody who wanted a college education could and CAN enroll and escape. How many do? Poverty, in America, is often self-imposed and generationally systemic.

And the 'modern trend of economic development' is that a business owner or planner looking to locate is primarily interested in a workforce. There's your 'trend'. Picky? The criteria you mentioned at 8:53 are as old as Methuselah. Companies have always sought infrastructure, labor force, work ethic, trainable residents, public education. But, the Fayette/Jefferson County area has, first of all, never had a population inclined to get and hold jobs.

Why didn't Charles Evers build places for people to work? He had absolute control and access to unlimited money. All I ever knew him to own and run was a washateria on Highway 61.

Anonymous said...

Mr Crawford. During your several years as Deputy Director of MDA (Mississippi's Economic Development Agency) what did you do to address the problems in these counties?

What programs did you advocate to solve the unemployment and the 'hunger' in these counties?

You talk of the Republican leadership you constantly demean (although you were a paid part of that group) and place the current condition of these counties squarely on their shoulders, all the while knowing that the conditions in these counties didn't turn this way under their leadership and the improvement you seek for these areas isn't a governmental one.

If 'Economic developers' could solve this dirth of jobs --- why didn't you do something about it while drawing your six figure salary from the state's coffers?

Your Montgomery Institute's track record doesn't show you had much success in Kemper or Noxubee Counties either. Is the dismal condition of those residents the failure of the state's "republican leadership" also or do the local economic developers share some of the blame for all the jobs locating in Meridian and not these adjoining poor counties?

Or is it true that the job creators (businesses) locate where there is a willing and capable workforce, and those being paid to lure those employers (like you) are happy to see them settle where they choose and don't insist that their business decisions get overridden by your social welfare concerns.

Or - is it just that you want one more chance to take an unwarranted shot at the current state leaders since Bill Minor is no longer around to do it and you have decided to fill his empty shoes.

Anonymous said...

@4:29pm, April 11 - That property is in Adams County, not Jefferson.

Anonymous said...

" I worked for years in the Natchez-Fayette area. Please tell us about these Jefferson County jobs you think China and Mexico 'took away'. To my recollection, there has never been an industrial enterprise in Jefferson County, Mississippi. And add to that the fact that there have been very few commuting to available jobs in nearby Port Gibson and Natchez over the years. "

So true !

At one time, Natchez had many well paying factory positions. They had a paper mill, tire factory and a plant that made sheetrock. All three are gone due to goofy labor union demands and NAFTA.

During those days, a high school drop-out in Natchez could make quite a bit of money just by showing up for work on time, and giving an honest day's work.

" Why didn't Charles Evers build places for people to work? He had absolute control and access to unlimited money. All I ever knew him to own and run was a washateria on Highway 61. "

I remember that.
But to be fair, in addition to a washateria ... it was also a "community center".

Anonymous said...

@2:13 Thank you for the correction. Any idea whose it is?

Anonymous said...

It's apparent the writer has never been to the local Wal-Mart, Kentucky Fried Chicken any of the local convenience stores or the WIC Centers an give away day.

Anyone of them looks like a Sumo wrestling match is about to break out at any minute!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

5:17 - According to the DOL Standard Industrial Classification Manual, every southern Washateria is a Community Center, just as every church is a voting precinct.

Anonymous said...

Then move out of Jefferson County!.. Crawford is a DA like most Democrats wanting economic opportunity dropped in their lap without having to seek opportunity or work for anything. Get an education, get a job where there is one, stfu about everything else. We are tired of carrying the load.

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