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Jobless rate dips in county

February offered some good unemployment news as most areacounties experienced declines in their jobless rates and rateincreases in other counties were marginal, according to statisticsfrom the Mississippi Employment Security Commission (MESC).

Lincoln County posted a 6.3 percent rate for February. Thatrepresented a three-tenths of a point drop from an adjusted Januarytotal of 6.6 percent, said Chandler Russ, executive vice-presidentof the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a sign of an economy that’s starting to pick back up,”Russ said. “Orders are up and people are starting to spend moneyagain.”

Russ said the county’s civilian labor force rose by 40 peoplefrom 14,640 to 14,680 while the number of unemployed dropped from960 to 930. In employment totals, the number of people with jobsincreased by 70 from 13,680 to 13,750.

“You had some minor employment increases in manufacturing andnon-manufacturing saw a 20-person increase,” Russ said.

Russ was pleased that Lincoln County, which ranked 30thstatewide, maintained the second-lowest jobless rate in the areabehind Amite County. That county’s rate climbed three-tenths to 5.2percent for February.

“We’re also slightly better than the state average and slightlyabove the national average,” Russ said in comparison to a state 6.5percent rate and the national 6.1 percent average. “All in all, itwas a good February and we hope even more people will be able to goto work in March and April.”

Overall in southwest Mississippi, five counties saw ratedeclines while three experienced increases.

Lawrence County was the leader among decliners with a 1.3percentage point drop. Its February rate was 6.9 percent.

To the west, Jefferson County had a 1.1-point drop to 14.4percent. That remained, however, the highest in the area and wasamong the 10 highest in the state.

Copiah and Pike counties each had declines of half a point.Copiah’s rate dipped to 7.3 percent while Pike’s stood at 7.4percent for February.

Like Amite County, Franklin County experienced a three-tenths ofa point increase. Its February rate was 9.9 percent.

Seeing the smallest increase was Walthall County, whose raterose one-tenth to 6.8 percent.

MESC officials said most counties saw their rates drop inFebruary, although weather conditions caused some agriculturalcounties’ rates to increase. Officials predicted some further rateimprovements, although they cautioned that spring weatherconditions could have a negative impact.

Overall in February, 22 counties had double-digit jobless rates,with Issaquena County leading the way at 25 percent. LafayetteCounty had the lowest jobless rate for the month at 2.6percent.