• 66°

Jobless rate up after holidays; still area’s best

The new year brought higher jobless rates for Lincoln County andthe rest of the state, according to Mississippi Employment SecurityCommission (MESC) statistics for January.

At 5.4 percent, Lincoln County’s jobless rate was up 1.7percentage points from the last month of 2003.

All area counties had increases of at least one percentagepoint, and the state rate for January was up 1.2 to 6.3 percent.The U.S. average was also 6.3 percent.

“The state as a whole saw a significant increase,” said ChandlerRuss, executive vice-president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln CountyChamber of Commerce. “We continued to lead the region as far asunemployment goes.”

In county-by-county rankings, Lincoln County placed 24th, downonly one position from December. The county’s January 2004 joblesswas almost two percentage points below the January 2003 rate of 7.2percent.

In actual people totals, the county’s civilian labor forceremained almost unchanged at 14,030. The number of peopleunemployed, however, rose by 210 people as non-manufacturing areassaw the biggest jobs decline.

“That’s attributable to the service sector gearing back downafter the Christmas season, as well as college-age studentsreturning to class,” Russ said.

Russ said the “real bright spot” was a growth of 10 jobs in themanufacturing sector, from 1,160 in December to 1,170 in January.He added that the chamber is continuing its job developmentefforts.

“I think you’ll see us continue to have good, strong numbers forthe rest of the year,” Russ said. “We’re doing everything we canfrom this end to see that everyone who wants a job can find solidemployment.”

In the rest of southwest Mississippi, Pike, Copiah and Franklincounties each had unemployment rate jumps of more than twopoints.

Pike County’s rate was up 2.1 to 6.1 percent, which stillallowed the county to have the second-lowest area total, tied withWalthall County, which had a 1.8-point increase to 6.1 percent.

Copiah County’s total climbed 2.2 points to 7 percent inJanuary. Franklin County’s rate that month rose 2.3 points to 9.5percent.

To the east, Lawrence County experienced a 1.4-point jump to 6.7percent.

With an increase of 1.1 points, Amite County had the smallestrate hike. Its January total was 7.1 percent.

Jefferson County’s rate soared to 20.2 percent, an increase of5.4 points. That was second-highest in the state behind SharkeyCounty’s 24.8 percent.

On the other end of the employment spectrum, Lamar County hadthe lowest total at 2.9 percent.

MESC officials said 31 counties had rates lower than the 6.3percent state total. They said weather conditions and plantclosures made rate predictions for February difficult toforecast.