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County unemployment rate continues downward trend

Lincoln County’s unemployment rate continued to drop in November, settling on 5.1 percent at the end of the month, according to preliminary numbers released by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. This puts the county slightly below the state average of 5.2 percent.

“I think the numbers tell us that we are doing well helping employees finding work,” said Garrick Combs, executive director of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.

The unemployment rate covers those who are unemployed but who are actively seeking employment. MDES calculates the unemployment rate by surveying how many people are seeking a job. This includes people who look for work sporadically or who work part-time because they cannot find a full-time job.

Out of 82 counties, 27 have an unemployment rate equal to or less than the state average. DeSoto County has the lowest rate at 3.7 percent, while Issaquena has the highest at 11.8 percent. Lincoln County is ranked 24th in the state, along with Harrison and Marshall counties, which had the same unemployment rate.

Combs believes it is easier to assess the county’s unemployment rate by comparing its number to the surrounding counties in Southwest Mississippi.

“If you take all 82 counties, the regions of the state are so vastly different from each other,” he said. “I like to look at the southwest part of the state to see how we are doing. If I’m not mistaken, in our region we have close to the lowest rate.”

All of the surrounding counties south of Jackson had an unemployment rate higher than Lincoln County’s 5.1 percent. Those numbers were:

Copiah — 5.9 percent

Lawrence — 6.1 percent

Walthall — 6.7 percent

Pike — 6.0 percent

Amite — 6.5 percent

Franklin — 6.0 percent

Jefferson — 10.9 percent

Out of all the counties in Mississippi, only eight were at or below November’s national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent.

Lincoln County had 13,690 employed people in November, out of a labor force of 14,430. The 5.1 percent jobless rate translates to 740 people unemployed. In November 2015, the county had 13,610 people employed from a labor force of 14,490. The jobless rate was 6 percent or 880 people.

Combs said that Lincoln County’s unemployment rate tends to decrease toward the end of the year for multiple reasons.

“A lot of retailers bring on part-time or temporary help through the holidays,” he said. “Generally, you see it creep up over the summer and back down over the fall because you have a lot of students seeking a job for the summer, but going back to school in the fall. I think those are the two biggest trends.”

The diverse sectors throughout Lincoln County help keep the unemployment numbers down, Combs said.

“We don’t just have one industry sector,” he said. “We have a strong industrial park, an automotive, timber and retail sector. The medical community plays a big role in those employment numbers. We have a large financial service sector. If one sector is having a hard time, this community is a little different in that there are a wide range of skills that can be utilized.”

There were about 67,300 unemployed Mississippians in November, out of a labor force of 1.286 million. The workforce dropped slightly from October, where the revised statistics report 1.293 million in the labor force and 73,700 unemployed.

The workforce has also risen slightly from last year. In November 2015, MDES reported that out of 1.285 million in the workforce, 79,100 were unemployed.

For more information regarding unemployment rates, visit mdes.ms.gov.