Industry closing boosts county jobless rate

Published 6:00 am Thursday, November 8, 2001

Lincoln County unemployment soared in September as the countysaw the effects of a major industry closing in August, according tochamber of commerce officials and statistics from the MississippiEmployment Security Commission (MESC).

The county’s rate climbed nine-tenths of a point to 5.2 percentand placed the county at number 35 in county-by-county jobless raterankings. Prior to September, the county had been ranked in thelowers 20s for a long time.

Chandler Russ, executive vice-president of theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, cited the closing ofAuburn Sportswear and the loss of almost 120 jobs. The sportsapparel manufacturer closed in August, but the job losses were notreported until September.

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“Those are the primary jobs that drove our unemployment rateup,” Russ said.

In the manufacturing sector, the number of employed workers was1,667 but it fell to 1,519 in September. In the sub-category ofapparel, the number of employed dropped from 113 in August to threein September.

In January, Russ pointed out, the county’s number of peopleemployed in the apparel area was 168.

“We’ve lost 165 jobs during the year in apparel,” Russ said.”You’ve seen manufacturing decline and it can be tracked alongthose numbers.”

Since the Auburn closing, Russ said the chamber has been workingwith the Mississippi Development Authority, MESC and Copiah-LincolnCommunity College to assist displaced workers. Russ said many aretaking advantage of various incentives to seek additional educationto prepare them for other areas of work.

Russ said not all industrial park businesses are listed in themanufacturing category. Some, such as the Wal-Mart DistributionCenter and McLane Southern, are categorized as tradeindustries.

Aside from apparel, other employment sectors remained in goodshape, Russ said.

“Everything else, we’re doing solidly,” he said. “All the othermajor manufacturers are holding steady.”

In job-related numbers, the county’s civilian labor force grewby 10 in September to 14,450. The number of unemployed rose by 130from 620 to 750.

“We’re at the state average,” Russ said about the county’s 5.2percent jobless rate.

The September state rate inched up one-tenth from 5.1percent.

“Areas with layoffs and heavy concentrations of farm-relatedjobs experienced the heaviest loss of jobs,” said MESC ExecutiveDirector Curt Thompson.

September jobless rate results were mixed in other areas ofsouthwest Mississippi. Including Lincoln County, four postedincreases and four saw decreases.

Franklin and Lawrence counties each had six-tenths of a pointjumps to 7.4 percent and 7.7 percent respectively. Copiah Countyalso saw an increase as its rate rose two-tenths to 5.7percent.

Among rate declines, Walthall County saw its rate fall a fullpercentage point to 4.9 percent. Pike County’s rate went downone-tenth to 5.7 percent.

Two counties, Amite and Jefferson, had rate drops of five-tenthsof a point. However, the results put the counties on opposite endsof the unemployment spectrum.

At 3.9 percent, Amite County continued to have the lowest ratein the area while Jefferson’s 15.6 percent gave it the highest ratein the area and the state. Jefferson County was among 13 in thestate with double-digit unemployment totals, Thompson said.

Overall, 35 counties were at or below the state rate while 26were at or below the U.S. average of 4.7 percent.