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Mississippi industries in the 20th century


Governor Paul B. Johnson
Governor Paul B. Johnson

Governor White’s BAWI program in 1936 was the first serious effort to industrialize Mississippi’s economy. Every governor since World War II has encouraged industrialization and has favored bringing more industrial jobs to the state. The decline in agricultural employment and the rise of industrial employment has been rapid. In 1951, 40 new plants providing 5,200 new jobs located in Mississippi. In 1965 Governor Paul B. Johnson, Jr., announced that for the first time in the state’s history, industrial employment had surpassed agricultural employment. In 1977 more than 120 new plants brought more than 10,000 new industrial jobs. Mississippi’s per-capita income rose from $830 (50 percent of the national average) in 1951 to $5,529 (71 percent of the national average) in 1977. In 1993 Mississippi’s per-capita income stood at $14,894, or 71.6 percent of the national average.

By 1990 only 29,300 Mississippians, or 2.7 percent of the labor force, worked on farms, while almost 250,000, or 22.7 percent, worked in factories. Trade and service industries employed 363,700 Mississippians, while another 210,000 (20 percent) were employed by government.

The largest employers were manufacturers of clothing, food products, furniture, and lumber and wood products. Important parts of this industrial growth were linked to Mississippi’s agricultural products. Among Mississippi’s largest employers today are plants for processing poultry and catfish. Similarly, industries based on wood products—paper and pulp mills, and an increasingly important furniture industry in northeast Mississippi—all spring from timber, Mississippi’s most abundant resource. Centers of heavy industry have arisen along the Gulf Coast.

Litton Shipbuilding at Pascagoula is the state’s single largest employer. Centers of heavy industry have also developed in cities along the Mississippi River like Natchez, Vicksburg, and Greenville.

Some economic problems persist. Too many Mississippians lack the technical and educational skills necessary for high-wage, sophisticated industries. This is especially true in the Delta and the central hill counties. Too many Mississippians depend for their livelihoods on government: In many depressed counties the chief source of income is government payments such as welfare and social security. "Mississippi" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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