Jobless rate up in Dec.

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 3, 2003

Lincoln County ended 2002 on a sour note as the county’s joblessrate for December climbed a small percentage, according to totalsfrom the Mississippi Employment Security Commission (MESC).

At 6.4 percent, Lincoln County’s December rate was up two-tenthsof a point from November. MESC totals showed job reductions in theservices area of the economy.

“It’s probably attributable to the service industry gearing downafter Christmas,” said Chandler Russ, executive vice president ofthe Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.

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Russ pointed out that 40 more people were listed as unemployedin December over November, and there were 40 fewer jobs in theservices sector of the economy.

Overall, the number of people listed as employed dropped from13,800 in November to 13,780 in December. The number listed asunemployed climbed from 910 to 950 over the two-month period.

For December, Lincoln County’s rate was second-lowest in thearea behind Pike County’s 5.3 percent. Pike’s rate droppedthree-tenths of a point.

In statewide rankings, Lincoln County placed 33rd.

In a comparison of the yearly averages, the 2002 average of 6.7percent was more than a point and a half higher than the 2001average of 4.9 percent. The average number of people listed asunemployed was 710 in 2001 and 980 in 2002.

Russ, however, found a bright in growing civilian labor forcetotals. The annual average labor force, the number of people withjobs or actively looking for work, was up 240 from 2001’s 14,460 to2002’s 14,700.

“Even though we got higher unemployment in 2002 over 2001, it’sencouraging because we’ve got more people in the economy,” Russsaid, adding that efforts to find employment chances for thoseindividuals must continue.

On the bright side, Russ pointed out that Continental Carbonicwould be starting up soon and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center islooking for more employees.

“There are opportunities out there for those seekingemployment,” Russ said.

Unemployment in other southwest Mississippi counties was mixedduring December.

Amite County, which normally has one of the lowest rates in thearea, saw its rate more than double. Its December rate was up 4.4points to 8.7 percent for the last month of 2002.

Also seeing an increase of more than one point was JeffersonCounty. Its rate was up 1.5 to 15.4 percent, the highest in thearea and second-highest in the state behind Issaquena County’s 15.6percent.

Lawrence County saw a smaller increase as its total rosethree-tenths to 6.8 percent.

Rates for two counties, Copiah and Walthall, held steady overthe two-month period. Copiah’s rate was 6.8 percent and Walthall’s7.7 percent.

Franklin County posted a six-tenths of a point drop to 9.2percent in December.

The statewide average for December was 6.1 percent and unchangedfrom the previous month. The national average was 5.7 percent.

MESC officials said a number of counties, especially inagricultural areas, had rate increases in December.

Officials expected more of the same in January as weatherhinders agricultural and construction activity. Post-holidaylayoffs could also prompt an increase in jobless rates, theysaid.