Jobless rate up, but area in good shape

Published 5:00 am Friday, July 28, 2006

Unemployment figures from the Mississippi Department ofEmployment Security rose sharply in June as students and schoolstaff joined the work force for the summer, offsetting a smallerincrease in the number of employed.

Job gains made during June were in the leisure and hospitalityand construction sectors of the market, creating employment forapproximately 2,000 people, while other sectors accounted for theremainder of the state’s 3,800 residents finding employment.

Those figures were far short of the 9,000 Mississippians unableto find employment. Sectors reporting the largest job losses wereeducation and retail trade as students and teachers were releasedfrom school on summer break.

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“Other than the seasonal trend, I’m not aware of any otherchanges from May to June,” said David Holland, director of theBrookhaven branch office of MDES.

Despite an increase of a full percentage point, Lincoln andWalthall counties continued to dominate other southwest Mississippicounties in unemployment figures at a 7.6 unemployment rate. Therate earned them a tie at 21st on a ranking of the state’s 82counties.

The increase, caused by the seasonal influx of students andteachers into the summer labor force, was not unexpected, Hollandsaid, and Lincoln County’s economy still shows strong improvementover last year’s statistics.

“Many of them were unable to find work, but we’re still a fullpercentage point below where we were in June of last year and stilldoing well in the state rankings,” he said. “I think that provesour economy is much stronger this year than last.”

The state showed a slight improvement from June 2005 to June2006 with a decline of one-tenth of a percentage point.

Employment is Jefferson County, however, was difficult tofind.

Jefferson County, with its limited industry base, plummeted tonext to last in the state at 15.2 percent unemployed in June.

“The jobs are just not there to support them. There’s virtuallynowhere for them to go,” Holland said.

Other Southwest Mississippi counties also slipped inunemployment figures, but no more so than other counties in thestate.

Pike and Copiah counties posted a 7.8 percent unemployment rateand a state rank of 29th, which is still above the state’s 8.0percent average.

Amite County slipped just under the state average at 8.1percent, a ranking that tied them at 34th. Franklin County slippedto 8.9 percent and Lawrence 9.0 percent, ranking them at 47th and48th, respectively.