County posts Jan. jobless rate increase

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 20, 2006

Lincoln County’s unemployment rate of 8.1 percent for Januaryrose from a 7.2 percent rate posted in December in the latestfigures released from the state Department of EmploymentSecurity.

“It’s odd to me that it did go up a little bit,” said CliffBrumfield, executive director of the Brookhaven-Lincoln CountyChamber of Commerce. “It’s not the numbers we expected given howstrong our other sectors are.”

Brumfield cited exceptionally strong sales tax numbers, a strongeconomy and employment demands in the industrial and retail sectorsas indicators of an area that is not lacking in financialopportunities.

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“We know of no major areas of decline among our industries or inour retail sector,” he said.

The majority of southwestern Mississippi counties posted rateswell under the state average of 9.1 percent, which showed almost nochange from the December rate of 9.3 percent.

Amite County edged Lincoln County, 7.9 percent to 8.1 percent,to claim the lowest rate in the region. The two counties led thearea in December rates.

They were followed by Copiah at 8.3 percent, Pike at 8.7percent, Walthall at 8.9 percent, and Franklin at 8.9 percent.Lawrence County, at 9.8 percent, came in above the stateaverage.

In all, 45 counties reported January unemployment rates lessthan that of the state, and 28 counties posted double-digitunemployment rates.

The January rate statewide was considerably higher than the 7.8percent jobless rate recorded one year ago, confirming that damagefrom Hurricane Katrina continues to wreak havoc with the state’seconomy, according to a MDES press release.

Nearly every county in Mississippi has been fighting highunemployment since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast Aug. 29,said David Holland, director of the Lincoln County branch of thestate MDES. That is especially true in south and centralMississippi, where the greater number of evacuees fled to escapethe storm.

Although evacuees filed unemployment for their homes inLouisiana, the figures count for the county in which theapplication was made, he said. That skews the “real” unemploymentfigures for many counties in Mississippi, Holland said.

Areas dependent on farm-related jobs tended to post higher ratesof unemployment as agriculture activities slowed with the onset ofwinter. Most other areas changed little from December, accordingthe MDES release.