• 70°

Jobless rate tops 12 percent

With state unemployment tipping the scales at a dismal 12percent, local officials said they are thankful that Lincoln Countyis still ranked lower than most area counties in the joblessrankings.

Lincoln County’s numbers for January show a 12.4 percentunemployment rate, which is up from December’s 10.7 percent.Brookhaven Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said there are several local reasons forthe rise in the statistics.

“January’s numbers came in higher than previous months, whichreflects the seasonal changes we expect each year,” he said. “Inaddition, the wet weather has put the logging industry at astandstill, along with other agricultural slowdowns. Those thingscombined with the current economy have pushed levels to higher thandesired.”

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security says 22 ofMississippi’s 82 counties posted unemployment rates less than orequal to the state’s rate of 12 percent and 74 counties reporteddouble-digit rates for the month.

Copiah County, with an unemployment rate of 12.2 percent forJanuary, currently sits at number 24 on the list, with Lincolnfollowing closely behind at number 26.

MDES officials said the unemployment rate usually rises after theChristmas seasons from December to January as businesses do awaywith their extra holiday help.

“In normal times, I would predict that the number would trend down,but in a recession it is hard to say when the number is goingdown,” MDES Bureau Director of Labor Market Information WayneGasson said in a recent release.

According to economists, the state jobless rate reached the highestlevel in nearly 25 years. It has not been this high since 1986,records show.

Brumfield said there is still hope for the local area,however.

“Recent announcements of job creation in local industry as well asour continually recovering retail sector point to these numbersrecovering in the summer months,” he said.

Amite County is also still under 13 percent, with a Januaryunemployment rate of 12.8, up from December’s 11.0 percent. PikeCounty came in at 13.1 percent after a December rate of 10.9percent.

Lawrence County’s December rate of 12.6 percent was up to the 14percent mark in January, and Franklin is at 14.8 percent at thefirst of the year, up from the Christmas season’s 11.6 percent.Walthall was at 14.8 percent, up from December’s 11.6percent.

In Jefferson County, almost a fifth of the population started theyear unemployed, with a rate of 19.7 percent, up from December’s18.0 percent.

Only eight of the state’s 82 counties had rates below 10 percent,and four counties had rates above 20 percent. Experts said ruralareas are bearing the brunt of the economic downturn inMississippi, but Brumfield said he hopes to see things turn aroundwithin the year.

“We are reflecting the current state and national trend, but withthe good news concerning local job creation as well as additionalretail enhancements in the community, we expect to see thesenumbers back to pre-recession figures in the future,” he said.