Unemployment rates take August tumble

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Jobless rates in southwest Mississippi and across the statetumbled in August as students and education workers returned toschool, according to totals from the Mississippi EmploymentSecurity Commission (MESC).

Lincoln County’s unemployment rate for the month was down 1.3percentage points to 5.5 percent. That was the lowest in the areaand placed the county 23rd statewide.

“It’s almost a point below the state average, ” said ChandlerRuss, Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce executivevice-president.

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The state rate dropped to 6.3 percent in August from July’s 7.3percent.

Lincoln County’s totals reflected a drop in the civilian laborforce, those either working or actively seeking employment, from14,280 in July to 14,030 in August. Also, the number listedunemployed fell from 1,010 in July to 770 in August.

“The good thing is we didn’t lose any employment from July toAugust,” Russ said.

In fact, employment was actually up by 190, according to MESCtotals. Of those, 130 jobs were in non-manufacturing areas and 60were in manufacturing areas.

Among job categories, statistics reflected an additional 80 jobsin the area of education, from 770 in July to 850 in August.

“It was a strong sector, and we’ll continue to grow that sectoras our school districts grow their student base,” Russ said of theeducation gains.

Russ also pointed out that August’s 5.5 percent was thesecond-lowest total of 2003. Lincoln County had a 5.3 jobless ratein April.

“It was a solid August that saw some growth in the manufacturingand non-manufacturing sectors,” Russ said. “We hope that trendcontinues and that we continue to lead the region in employmentnumbers.”

All area counties but one, Pike County, had jobless rate dropsof more than one percentage point. Pike County’s rate was down halfa point to 6.5 percent, which was good enough for the second-lowestarea rate.

At 6.7 percent, Copiah County had the third-lowest area rate.Its total was done 1.2 points from July.

To the southwest, Amite County’s rate slipped to 7 percent, adecline of 1.5 points.

In Walthall County, joblessness was down one point to 7.7percent.

The Lawrence County jobless rate fell 1.1 points to 8.3percent.

Two area counties posted double-digit jobless totals.

Franklin County’s August total was 10.2 percent. Thatrepresented a decline of 1.4 percentage points.

Despite a full three-point drop, Jefferson County maintained thehighest rate in the state at 18.6 percent. That was more than 2.5points higher than the next-highest Holmes County’s 16 percent.

Jefferson, Franklin and Holmes counties were among 28 withdouble-digit unemployment rates in August.

Twenty-nine counties, lead by Rankin’s and Hancock’s 3.2percent, had rates lower than the state average of 6.3 percent. Thestate’s August 6.3 percent rate was down one point from July anddown four-tenths from August 2002’s 6.7 percent.

“We think that the improvement in the rate is due to studentsreturning to school,” said Curt Thompson, MESC executive director.”Those who are employed in education and education-related workreturn to their jobs and students who were looking for work andswelling the labor force numbers during the summer are back inclass.”