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Jobless rate stays low here

Following a September that saw jobless rate declines insouthwest Mississippi, area totals began to move back up inOctober, according to statistics from the Mississippi EmploymentSecurity Commission (MESC).

All but two southwest Mississippi counties posted rate increasesof at least one percentage point. The exceptions were LincolnCounty and Pike County.

Lincoln County’s rate inched up two-tenths of a point to 4.7percent. That was the smallest increase and allowed the county tomaintain the lowest jobless rate in the area.

“It’s really positive to continue to be the regional leader asfar as the unemployment rate,” said Chandler Russ, executivevice-president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce. “Even though we had an increase, it was smaller than allother counties’ increases.”

Pike County’s rate rose seven-tenths to 5.3 percent, which wasgood enough for second-lowest in the area.

Lincoln’s and Pike’s rates were both lower than the stateaverage of 5.8 percent, which was up seven-tenths from September.In statewide comparisons, Lincoln County claimed the 20th spotwhile Pike was 27th.

Russ cited increases in both the number of people looking forwork, known as the civilian labor force, and in the number ofpeople with jobs. The county’s civilian labor force rose from13,790 in September to 13,900 in October.

“The goods news is we had more people working in October than inSeptember,” Russ said, mentioning an 80-job increase over the twomonths. “It wasn’t enough to offset the increase in the civilianlabor force.”

In other parts of southwest Mississippi, Copiah and Walthallcounties each experienced increases of one percentage point.Copiah’s rate was up to 6.4 percent and Walthall’s rose to 6.1percent.

Amite County’s rate soared almost two percentage points. Itsrate was up 1.9 to 7.1 percent for October.

To the east, Lawrence County unemployment moved up 1.6percentage points to 7 percent. To the west, Franklin County had a1.3 percentage point climb to 9.3 percent, second-highest in thearea.

Again claiming the highest jobless rate in the area wasJefferson County. Its rate was up 4.1 percentage points to 16.3percent, which was also the highest in the state.

The state’s 5.8 percent jobless rate was slightly above thenational average of 5.6 percent. The October 2003 rate, though, waswell below last October’s 7.1 percent.

MESC officials said the number of unemployed rose by 10,900while the number of people with jobs increased by 7,900. Novembertotals should be better.

“November should see an improved labor force with a steadyincrease of manufacturing jobs and an increase of retail trade jobsas a result of the holiday season,” said Curt Thompson, MESCexecutive director.

Statewide, 16 counties posted double-digit jobless rates.

Thirty-one had rates lower than the state average while GrenadaCounty matched the 5.8 percent total. Lamar County had the lowestjobless rate at 2.8 percent.