May jobless rates climb in area counties

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 16, 2009

While Mississippi unemployment is up from 8.6 percent in Aprilto 9.6 percent in May – and Lincoln and the surrounding countiesare following suit – local education officials say they are gladtheir sector’s jobs are not being terribly affected by the economycrunch.

Lincoln County’s unemployment rose from 9.2 percent in April to10.1 percent in May, a half point above the state average, andCopiah is up more than a point, from April’s 8.8 percent to May’s10.1 percent.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College Vice President of BusinessAffairs Michael Tanner said the workforce at Co-Lin has remainedfairly secure since the college is federally funded.

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“The economy doesn’t impact us like it does a lot of otherbusinesses. If we had a big cut in state funding, that’s why we’dcut back,” he said. “People that work in education, unless there’sa drastic loss of state funding or funding from other sources, iffunding is cut somewhat we would freeze positions, but we stillwouldn’t cut people’s jobs.”

Meanwhile, Brookhaven School District Superintendent Lea Barrettsaid her district is handling the state’s economic woes and theireffects the best way they know how.

“There were some local district teacher slots that we didn’trefill this year because they’re telling us they may come back andcut our allocation for the ’08- ’09 school year again,” she said.”We’re just trying to be very, very, very cautious. Nobody has beenfired. We just handled that through attrition.”

Barrett said watching for local tax dollars and employees’livelihoods is an important consideration when budget time comesaround each year.

“Government is one of the safer places to work during a downturnin the economy. On top of that, we’ve always tried to be carefulwith the tax dollars,” she said. “We try to play it pretty close towhat the bottom line is. We don’t have a lot of excess people onpayroll, so we haven’t had to cut anyone.”

Barrett said the big hit would have come if the MississippiAdequate Education Program hadn’t been fully funded by federalstimulus money.

“We would have been hugely impacted by that,” she said.

In other surrounding counties, Walthall rose from 9.3 to 10.5percent, Franklin is up from 10.1 percent in April to 11.3 percentin May.

Lawrence County jumped .8 of a percent, from 9.0 percent to 9.8percent for May. Pike County rose from 8.3 percent in April to 8.9percent in May, and Amite County’s May average was 10.3 percentwhile their April total was 9.4 percent.

Jefferson County which runs in the bottom of the state’s 82counties most months, was ranked at number 81 for May, with anunemployment average of 17.9 percent, which was up from April’s16.2 percent.

State officials attribute the rise to seasonal influences, withthe largest employment decreases over the last year inmanufacturing, professional and business services, trade,transportation and utilities, and leisure and hospitality.