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January jobless rates up in area

Unemployment continued an upward climb in January as most areacounties experienced increases of at least one percentage point,according to statistics from the Mississippi Employment SecurityCommission (MESC).

Lincoln County’s rate rose one point to 6.5 percent for thefirst month of 2002. Chandler Russ, executive vice-president of theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, said MESC-adjustedfigures since the initial December statistics release showed thecounty with only a seven-tenths of a point increase.

“It’s reflecting seasonal adjustments and gearing back down fromthe busiest shopping time of the year,” Russ said.

The 6.5 percent rate placed Lincoln County at number 30 incounty-by-county rankings. It continued to have the second-lowestarea rate behind Amite County, which saw a nine-tenths of a pointincrease to 4.9 percent.

“We’re real pleased with a significant increase in the civilianlabor force,” Russ said. “It’s the largest it’s been since Februaryof the previous year.”

The county’s civilian labor force, those either with jobs oractively seeking employment, was up 120 from 14,510 in December to14,630 in January.

“Unfortunately, our unemployed numbers were up about 110 aswell,” Russ said, adding that most of those were in thenon-manufacturing/service sectors.

The number of employed rose by 10 people from 13,670 in Decemberto 13,680 in January.

With the increase in the civilian labor force, Russ said LincolnCounty continues to be in good position job wise and in labor forceavailability for prospective industries.

“It’s a good, strong, healthy picture,” Russ said.

Lincoln County was not alone in seeing a rate increase. MESCofficials said most counties saw increases, which contributed to aone-point state average increase from 5.9 percent in December to6.9 percent in January.

In other parts of southwest Mississippi, Franklin County postedthe biggest jump. Its rate rose 1.6 percentage points to 9.6percent in January.

Both Pike and Copiah counties experienced increases of 1.3percentage points. Copiah’s rate was up to 7.8 percent while Pike’sstood at 7.9 percent.

Also sharing the same percentage point increases were Lawrenceand Walthall counties, which were up 1.2 from December to January.The Lawrence County rate was 8.2 percent while Walthall’s was 6.7percent.

In contrast to other counties, Jefferson County posted a modestone-tenth of a point increase. Its January rate was 15.2 percent,which was highest in the area and eighth-highest statewide.

Curt Thompson, MESC executive director, said 27 counties in mostagricultural areas has double-digit jobless totals. IssaquenaCounty had the highest rate at 27.3 percent.

Overall, 33 counties were below the state average, withLafayette County having the lowest rate at 2.6 percent.

Thompson expected a February rebound in the unemployment area asthe U.S. economy continues to improve.

“As the nation appears to be recovering from the recession, weexpect Mississippi to follow suit,” Thompson said.