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Area sees jobless rates jump in Jan.

Lincoln County unemployment has, along with the state average,risen by leaps and bounds since December numbers were released,according to information from the Mississippi Department ofEmployment Security.

Lincoln County’s unemployment rate was up to 9.7 percent inJanuary from 7.6 percent in December. The new total keeps it justabove the middle of the state’s unemployment rankings at number 34out of 82 counties, according to statistics.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said January is typically one of theworst months of the year for unemployment anyway.

“January’s unemployment figures are following the same trendwe’ve seen in previous months, where we’re just ahead of the stateaverage,” he said. “Plus, January is one of our worst – if not theworst – month for unemployment.”

The 2.1 percent jump in the unemployment rate was about a half apoint above the state average of 9.2 percent, but was not asdrastic a jump as one neighboring county.

Jefferson County, which always has higher unemployment numbersthan most Southwest Mississippi counties, took almost a four-pointjump from 14.9 percent in December to a whopping 19.0 percent inJanuary.

Brumfield said comparing Lincoln County’s numbers to otherneighboring counties should encourage local economy watchers alittle. He said with Lincoln County’s reliance on the timberindustry, the downward trend in recent months is predictable.

“We’d like to see our unemployment rate be lower, but oureconomy is still closely tied to the timber industry, so it’s easyto understand why our average has increased,” he said. “But withthe national economy like it is, and with some of the numbersturned in by neighboring counties, we can be confident that whilewe are feeling some of the effects of the recession, we are notfeeling near the brunt.”

Other counties jumped roughly one to two points.

Franklin County was up to 10.4 in January from 8.3 in December,and Lawrence County rose from 8.8 percent in the December totals to10.0 percent in January. Pike’s numbers rose to 8.9 percent from7.5 in the previous month’s totals

Amite County was up to 11.2 percent from December’s 9.8 percent,and Copiah County’s 8.2 in December rose to 9.3. Walthall, whichcurrently rests in 19th place in county unemployment rankings, rosefrom 7.2 percent to 8.3 percent in January.

Meanwhile across the state, Rankin County’s percentage was thelowest, with an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent. Twenty-ninecounties were beneath the state’s rate of 9.2 percent and 46counties reported double-digit rates for the month of January.

Brumfield said spring should bring an uptick in the numbers forLincoln County residents.

“The warmer months should bring lower figures,” he said. “Andwith our place just a notch above the state average, we should havehope that as the state average increases, so will our local jobmarket.”