Area sees jobless rate increases

Published 6:00 am Friday, November 4, 2005

Despite higher September unemployment rates across much ofSouthwest Mississippi, Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice-presidentCliff Brumfield said Lincoln County was faring relatively well inthe wake of Hurricane Katrina.

According to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security,Lincoln County’s jobless rate climbed nine-tenths of a point to 8.1percent.

“This moderate increase in unemployment was expected afterKatrina,” Brumfield said.

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The recently-released jobless statistics showed Lincoln Countywith the lowest area rate. Statewide, the county ranked 53rd amongthe state’s 82 counties.

Some other area counties posted increases of two percentagepoints or more. Amite County’s rate was up 2.1 points to 9.7percent; Pike County was up 3.1 points to 11.3 percent and theWalthall County rate climbed 4.7 points to 12.6.

Citing hurricane-related factors, Brumfield echoed stateofficials in saying it was no surprise to see rates increase inproximity to the Coast. The coastal counties of Hancock, Harrisonand Jackson all had jobless rates in the low 20 percent range.

“The devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina in the latter partof August, especially along the coastal counties, will continue tohave a negative effect on the labor force conditions,” said WayneGasson, MDES chief of labor market information.

Due to power outages, Brumfield said a number of localbusinesses were forced to make temporary layoffs immediately afterthe storm. He said recent activity should help the arearebound.

“In recent weeks, we’ve seen numerous advertisements from localbusinesses looking for help,” Brumfield said. “Surely, this trendshould be seen in the October report.”

Brumfield said Lincoln County’s diverse economy helped it adjustto the changes so the negative impact was not greater. He alsocited higher sales tax collections that will also provide apositive economic boost for the community.

Regarding an economic rebound, Brumfield expressed similaroptimism for other area counties.

“Our neighbors to the south are doing well and should return tonormal numbers just as we will in the coming months,” he said.

In other area counties, the Lawrence County total climbedseven-tenths to 8.8 percent. Copiah County’s rate was up a fullpoint to 9.2 percent.

With a two-tenths rise, Jefferson County had the smallest areaincrease to 15.3 percent. The county’s rate, though, istraditionally among the state’s highest and was surpassed inOctober only by Pearl River’s 15.9 percent, Wilkinson County’s 16.8percent and the three coastal counties.

Franklin County was the only area county to see a rate decrease,falling 1.2 points to 7.6 percent. Its labor force totals, employedand unemployed, were down across the board for October.

MDES officials said 61 counties had jobless rates equal to orless than the state’s 9.1 percent, which was up more than twopoints from August’s 7 percent.