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County jobless rate below state average

Following December declines in unemployment, most southwestMississippi counties saw jumps to start the new year, according tonew totals from the Mississippi Employment Security Commission(MESC).

Following December declines in unemployment, most southwestMississippi counties saw jumps to start the new year, according tonew totals from the Mississippi Employment Security Commission(MESC).

Chandler Russ, executive vice-president of theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, said LincolnCounty’s 4.1 percent January jobless rate was a “healthy number.”The rate was up four-tenths from December.

“We’re still below the state average” of 5 percent, Russ said.The state rate climbed from 4.3 percent in December.

MESC totals showed the county with a civilian labor force of14,620, of which 14,020 were employed, in January. Decembercivilian labor force equaled 14,670 with 14,130 employed.

“The major losses were in agriculture and seasonal-relatedemployment,” Russ said. “That can be related to the weatherconditions.”

In county-by-county rankings, Lincoln County placed 23rd in thestate. The county continued to have the second-lowest rate in thearea behind Amite County, which saw a three-tenths of a pointincrease to 3.3 percent for January.

“Regionally, we still have an attractive labor pool for businessand industry,” Russ said.

Russ was pleased that Lincoln County saw an increase of 200 jobsin the service sector. There were some job losses in some otherareas.

“It shows we’re still growing as a regional center and providinggoods and services to areas outside our political boundaries,” Russsaid.

All but one area county saw jobless rate hikes in January.Lawrence County was the only one that did not and its rate heldsteady at 10 percent.

Seeing the largest jump was Walthall County. There, the rateclimbed 1.2 percentage points to 7.4 percent.

Other counties seeing more than half a point increase were Pikeand Copiah. Pike County’s rate was up seven-tenths to 5 percentwhile Copiah’s was up six-tenths to 5.8 percent.

To the west, Franklin County experienced a four-tenths climb to7.6 percent.

Franklin County’s rate was second-highest in the area behindJefferson County’s 15.3 percent, which climbed a tiny one-tenth ofa percent from December to January. Jefferson County improved itsstatewide ranking slightly, ranking only seventh-highest whereas itis usually in the top five.

MESC officials attributed the statewide increase to 5 percent toafter-Christmas layoffs, weather conditions and several plantclosures.

“We are not surprised by the rise in the rate,” said MESCExecutive Director Curt Thompson. “Each year the state experiencesa rate increase in January when employees hired for the Christmasseason are released and winter weather conditions curtail outdoorwork in forestry, agriculture and construction.”

According to totals, 29 counties were below the state averageand 32 were equal to or less than the national average of 5percent. Lafayette County had the lowest rate at 1.9 percent andIssaquena posted the highest total at 27.3 percent.