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Workforce needs major improving

A national map of June unemployment rates illustrates Mississippi’s latest problem in dark, crosshatched clarity.

The Magnolia State stands out like a bruised, sore thumb on the U.S. map, with only the states of Nevada, Michigan and Rhode Island sharing the same color key.

The statistics show Mississippi lags behind most of the rest of the country in the latest unemployment figures.

With more than 100,000 Mississippians unemployed in June, the state’s unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, the worst in the nation. Rhode Island came in next to last with only fractions of a percent separating the two.

Interestingly, North Dakota claimed the state with the lowest unemployment rate with 2.8 percent.

Perhaps Mississippi can find a bit of solace in North Dakota’s amazing boom in recent years. North Dakota’s economic success is tied firmly to the oil and gas development of the Bakken shale formation.

Mississippi — particularly parts of Southwest Mississippi — is watching and waiting to see if becoming the North Dakota of the South is possible.

That may, in fact, occur if the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale formation in Wilkinson and Amite counties and central Louisiana proves as energy-rich as the Bakken.

But until that potentially plays out, state leaders must work hard to realize the real key to improving Mississippi’s economy is through improving the quality of its workforce.

We’d be willing to bet that at least a few of the 8 out of 100 residents who cannot find a job are high school dropouts or somehow fell through the cracks of the state’s education system.