Jobless rate down in Feb.

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 28, 2003

February saw falling unemployment rates as all area counties’totals dropped by at least half a percentage point, according tostatistics from the Mississippi Employment Security Commission(MESC).

At 5.8 percent, Lincoln County laid claim to the second-lowestrate for the second month of 2003. The county’s total was down 1.6percentage points from January.

“It was much more solid numbers than we saw in January,” saidChandler Russ, Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerceexecutive vice-president.

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Citing statistics, Russ said the number of unemployed fell by210 people from 1,040 in January to 830 in February. In addition,the number of people with jobs rose 130 from 13,460 in January to13,590 in February.

“There was no one major increase,” Russ said about areas withjob gains. “It was spread among all the categories.”

Russ said it will be interesting to see what effects eventsabroad have on jobless rates.

“It’s unpredictable what they’re going to look like during thewar with Iraq and after that,” Russ said.

Claiming the lowest February total was Pike County at 4.8percent. Its rate was down 1.1 points from the previous month.

Jefferson County was the only other county to see a decline ofmonth than one point, falling 1.9 points to 16.5 percent. That,however, was still the highest in the area and third-highest in thestate behind Sharkey County at 18.2 percent and Webster County at17.3 percent.

Other area counties went in numerical order, from nine-tenths tofive-tenths, in their declining jobless rate percentages:

* Walthall County fell nine-tenths of a point to 7.6percent.

* Copiah County dropped eight-tenths to 6.3 percent.

* Lawrence County’s rate was down seven-tenths to 7.0percent.

* Amite County declined six-tenths to 10.4 percent.

* Franklin County’s rate sank half a point to 11.2 percent.

Southwest Mississippi was not alone in seeing lower Februaryjobless totals.

“Most counties saw their rates decrease in February,” said MESCExecutive Director Curt Thompson. “Thirty-one of our 82 countiesposted rates lower than the state rate, unfortunately, however,there were 26 counties with double-digit rates.”

The state rate for February was 6.1 percent. That was down fromJanuary’s 7.1 percent and more than half a point lower thanFebruary 2002’s rate of 6.7 percent.

The national unemployment rate for February was 6.4 percent.

MESC officials cited job gains in educational, health servicesand retail trade sectors in discussing the declining jobless rates.Thompson said rates generally improve in March, but he questionedwhether wet weather may have a negative impact on the state’seconomic situation.