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Jobless rate down in Nov.

Lincoln Countians could be thankful in November as the county’sunemployment total dropped half a percentage point for the month,according to new statistics from the Mississippi EmploymentSecurity Commission (MESC).

For the Thanksgiving month, Lincoln County’s rate was 6.2percent. The November total was down from the 6.7 percent inOctober and placed the county third in southwest Mississippirankings.

Chandler Russ, executive vice-president of theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, said the majority ofthe job gains were in the wholesale and retail trade area asbusinesses geared up for the holiday season.

“We gained about 90 jobs from October to November,” Russsaid.

The number of people employed in November was 13,740, up from13,650 the previous month. The number of people looking for workwas down from 990 to 910 over the two-month period.

The totals combined for a civilian labor force of 14,650. Thatwas only slightly higher than the 14,640 in October, but almost arecord for the year, Russ said.

“It’s the second-highest civilian labor force total of theyear,” said Russ, adding that February’s 14,710 was the year’shighest total.

Mentioning a local industry’s employment plans, Russ wasoptimistic about the future.

“It’s encouraging that Wal-Mart Distribution Center is lookingfor 75-100 new employees,” Russ said. “That should help us tomaintain or push our unemployment numbers lower.”

Across southwest Mississippi, six counties saw jobless Novemberrate declines while two posted increases.

Amite County maintained the lowest rate in the area at 4.3percent, which was down 1.4 percentage points from October’s 4.3percent. With a six-tenths of a point drop, Pike County wassecond-lowest at 5.6 percent.

Copiah and Walthall counties had rate declines of a point ormore. Walthall County’s total was down 1.3 points to 7.7 percentand Copiah’s was down one point to 6.8 percent.

Also seeing a rate decline was Jefferson County. Its rate wasdown seven-tenths to 13.9 percent, which was still highest in thearea and third-highest in the state behind Choctaw County’s 16.8percent and Webster County’s 14.6 percent.

Posting November rate increases were Franklin and Lawrencecounties. Franklin’s rate was up 1.1 percentage points to 9.8percent and Lawrence’s rate climbed a minor two-tenths of a pointto 6.5 percent.

The statewide jobless rate was down six-tenths of a point to 6.1percent for November. MESC officials attributed the decline to asurge in retail hirings in anticipation of the holiday season.

According to statistics, 31 counties had rates lower than thestate average while 27 counties’ totals were lower than thatnational average of 5.7 percent. Nineteen counties had double-digitjobless rates.

Rankin County had the lowest rate in the state at 3 percent.

MESC officials said December totals likely would be mixed asagricultural areas would see higher rates and urban areas lowerrates depending on the strength of the holiday season.