Area, state see jobless rate increases

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 27, 2009

While both the Mississippi unemployment average and LincolnCounty’s unemployment average are both up from last month and thistime last year, local officials point to other seemingly affluentareas of the state that are struggling as proof that things couldbe worse.

The overall state average rose from 9.3 to 9.4 percent fromFebruary to March, while Lincoln County’s average rose from 9.4percent to 9.7 percent in that same time. But the trend wasstatewide, Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce ExecutiveVice President Cliff Brumfield said.

“Considering how some other areas of the state that areperceived as successful such as Lowndes County and other placesthat have realized strong industrial gains in recent years, itstill points to the number one reason for the increase inunemployment,” said Brumfield. “And that is the economy.”

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Lowndes County, which has in recent years received quite a bitof industrial growth, had an unemployment rate for March of 10.3percent, which is up from last month’s 10.1 percent. Four of thesix counties surrounding Lincoln recorded numbers lower than thosefor March.

Copiah County is up 0.1 percent, rising from February’s 9.4percent to 9.5 percent for March. Lawrence County is up from 9.8 inFebruary to 10.1 percent in March, while Walthall jumped from 8.5percent to 9.3 percent.

Pike County dropped a tenth of a percentage from 9.0 percent inFebruary to 8.9 percent in March.

Meanwhile, Amite County’s average rose from February’s 10.8percent to March’s 10.9, and Franklin County recorded a 0.4 percentincrease from 10.7 to 11.1 percent.

Jefferson County, which had a whopping 18.6 percent unemploymentrate in February, was down in March, with a 17.7 percentaverage.

Brumfield said the fact that Lincoln County is usually rankedbetween 32 and 35 on the list of the state’s 82 counties is anindicator of the area’s stable job market. While the fluctuationsof the economy may affect it somewhat, it isn’t losing inordinatelymore jobs than other counties.

“Our numbers for March fall in line with our placement in thestate for March of 2008,” he said. “It’s just unfortunatelyincreased due to the economy and seasonal issues.”

But with a slight upturn in sales tax recently, meaning morepeople are spending money in Lincoln County, Brumfield said there’salways hope on the horizon.

“Recent news of slightly improved retail activity along withbetter news of increasing financial activity points to hope formore optimistic reports in upcoming months,” he said.

Statewide, the March 2009 rate of 9.4 percent is much higherthan March 2008, when the state average was 6.1 percent, accordingto Mississippi Department of Employment Security statistics.Twenty-nine counties posted unemployment rates lower than the stateaverage, with Lamar and Rankin counties posting the lowest at 6percent.