Employment dip deemed expected
The most recent unemployment figures were not a good sign for the area and nation, but not everyone sees them as so bad.
The latest unemployment report for May showed unemployment was up to 9.0 percent in Lincoln County and 8.9 for the state, compared to 8.1 in April for the county and a Mississippi average of 8.3 in April.
Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Director Cliff Brumfield said an uptick is expected this time of year.
“What we’re seeing is the typical change we see every year at the beginning of the summer months,” he said. “People associated with education usually see income changes and people entering the workforce have to find work, which often results in higher unemployment.”
Around Southwest Mississippi, all counties saw an increase in jobless claims. Pike County’s rate stood at 10.7 percent, Walthall 10.4, Lawrence 9.8, Copiah 9.4, Jefferson 13.6, Franklin 9.6 and Amite 9.7. Lincoln County’s increase of 0.9 percent was the highest in the area from April to May.
Brumfield said business activity and city tax collections were up in May, signaling the area’s economy was not getting worse.
“May had quite an increase in local business activity,” he said. “At the same time there are still individuals looking for jobs and jobs that have more opportunity than the one we have.”
Brumfield did say that he expects unemployment to come back down later this year.
“Sales tax reports are up from last year in the most recent report,” Brumfield said. “This trend (in unemployment) may continue in the coming summer months, but I then expect it to decrease as we get into the third quarter of 2012.”
One variable that has a large impact on employment are gas prices. During their rise and fall, businesses may hire or lay people off. Lately prices have been rising after over a month of declines.
Brumfield pointed out the impact of gas prices go beyond the price at the pump.
“It remains to be seen how it will affect us in the future, but fuel prices definitely have an impact on people’s spending patterns,” he said. “It’s not just the gas going into the tank, but it’s the ripple effect that goes into it that can also affect many other goods due to the fuel needed to transport those items.”
Brookhaven has seen economic activity in the past few months with new businesses opening and others relocating to expand their services. This can most clearly be seen at the Brookway Plaza shopping center on Brookway Boulevard.
“New businesses coming to Brookhaven are an opportunity for growth,” Brumfield said. “The businesses that have relocated are an equally good sign. Many have had to weather the storm over the past few years during the economic downturn, but when you’re caught in the cycle all you have is your local community to turn to.”