Jobless rate drops in area

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 2, 2003

April represented a good month for southwest Mississippi as mostcounties in the area saw jobless rate declines, according to newstatistics from the Mississippi Employment Security Commission(MESC).

Lincoln County’s rate was down three-tenths of a point to 5.2percent. That was lower than both the national average of 6 percentand the state average of 5.8 percent for April.

Chandler Russ, Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerceexecutive vice-president, said the jobless totals were a testamentto a good, strong local economy providing services to the region.He also mentioned recent improvement in sales tax collections.

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“It’s refreshing to see some positive signs,” Russ said. “It’scertainly a trend that we hope continues.”

The county’s rate was the second-lowest in the region and placedit among the top 25 in lowest jobless totals. Lincoln County placed24th.

Five of eight area counties’ rates dropped, with totals fallingbetween one-tenth of a point and 1.6 percentage points.

Pike and Lawrence counties each had one-tenth of a point drops.At 4.5 percent, Pike County held onto the lowest rate in the areawhile Lawrence County came in at 6.5 percent.

Franklin County had the largest decrease in April, falling 1.6percentage points to 9.9 percent. Walthall County’s rate fellnine-tenths of a point to 6.8 percent for the month.

To the north, Copiah County’s rate held steady at 6.1percent.

Jefferson County joblessness climbed six-tenths of a point to17.7 percent. That was again the highest in the area and also thehighest in the state.

Amite County saw a four-tenths of a point jump to 11.1percent.

On the state level, MESC officials a four-month trend ofimproved unemployment totals over the same time period last year.The 6 percent state rate in April 2003 was down four-tenths fromApril 2002’s 6.4 percent.

“This April there were 26,000 more people employed than lastyear, for a 2.15 percent gain in employment,” said MESC ExecutiveDirector Curt Thompson.

State officials attributed the improved picture to job gains inleisure and tourism in anticipation of summer. Wholesale job gainswere also noted.

Most state counties saw rate decreases in April. Lamar Countyposted the lowest rate at 2.7 percent.

Thompson expected rate increases in May as students, just outfrom school, enter the job market to seek employment.