Employer payrolls hit a new all-time high in Mississippi in June, as the unemployment rate held steady. Good news, but let’s drill down here into the red clay hills of Neshoba County a little bit.

Our workforce in 2007 hit a high of nearly 16,000 and by May of this year had fallen to 10,948, an almost a 30% plunge.

Nearly 6,000 fewer people are working here compared to a decade ago, which is bound to be a factor in sectors like retail.

From 1996 to 1998, Neshoba County’s workforce was above 16,000. So, 34% fewer people are working here than at the employment peak in the late 1990s.

Steady may be a better way than saying stagnant if we’re hopeful about the state’s numbers that were announced last week. However, why is our state bumping along?

Overall, there are numerous reasons, it has been suggested, but primarily because the state has no commercial base in growth industries.

The payroll survey — economists’ top labor market indicator — rose to 1.17 million in June. That’s slightly above the previous record set in March and is 18,000 jobs above June 2017. Payrolls have shown strong growth at times over the last nine months.

Since March of this year, Neshoba County’s workforce has grown gradually with a few fluctuations for a gain of 4%. There were 10,496 people employed in March compared to 10,948 in May.

While we are confident in President Trump and his economic policies that have surged the national economy forward, Mississippi isn’t experiencing that kind of growth compared to the rest of the country.

The eight years of failed Democrat policies took a toll on Main Street Mississippi, particularly with the Obama administration’s oppressive lending regulations.

So as a slew of statewide elected officials and candidates pile onto the Neshoba County Fairgrounds today for speeches and visiting through Thursday, there are some things to ponder as working people trying to make a better living.

Smaller, limited government is the hallmark of conservatism, and we’ve seen that in Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ leadership in controlling debt combined with the fiscal restraints in the House under Speaker Gunn and other Republican leaders.

But, some issues need to be addressed openly.  We are losing population, a trend that will likely continue and we should have a discussion about why.

Nearly a third of our citizens are on Medicaid, and we continue to be the most reliant state on federal dollars. For every one dollar that goes to Washington, Mississippi gets $3 back.

We have the highest percentage of our workforce in the public sector, which is no doubt going to become an issue because the state retirement system is woefully underfunded and unless some changes are made will be insolvent.

Many things make our state great like the grand ole Neshoba County Fair, but we have much to consider about our future direction if we’re going to compete.

Bloated education bureaucracies are trouble everywhere, but our state has some excellent districts, so we need to challenge the elected officials and candidates to be more specific than just being for better jobs and better education.

Anybody can say they’re for better jobs and better education — and we predict you may hear at the Fair how “progressive” one political party is over another. So how progressive is spending other people’s money?

Don’t be fooled by the lure of big spending and free stuff for everybody. Socialism has never worked anywhere in the world, and “Democratic Socialism” won’t work in America.

Mississippi has a lot of hard-working people willing to work, a lot of land and natural resources and plenty of good food and culture to offer.  So what is our future?

The Boys & Girls Club here is about to start a mentoring program in conjunction with the city schools to give children hope for a better future and almost certainly make them more employable.

And speaking of children, just last weekend the Kids Over Everything event, now in its fifth year, was held at the Neshoba County Coliseum with more than 1,100 attending.

Kids Over Everything is an end of summer function geared toward providing school supplies to area students and allows them to interact with the likes of Shay Hodge, the former Ole Miss wide-receiver from Morton who spent a few years in the NFL and coaches at Provine.

We want a better future for all of our young people right here in Neshoba County, so steady isn’t good enough here or anywhere else in Mississippi — and it’s something we need to discuss openly rather than sugar-coating mediocre employment numbers.