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County jobless rate rose in December

Lincoln County’s unemployment rate rose in December to 5.6 percent, up from the previous month’s 5.1 percent, according to preliminary numbers released by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security this week.

The county sits right at the state average for the month.

The statewide unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent from November’s 5.7, its lowest level since January 2004, and was below the 6.8 percent of December 2015. More people entered the workforce, more found jobs, and the number of unemployed fell to 72,000, lowest since 2001.

Employer payrolls took a sharp dive, however, falling 7,000 to 1.13 million. That survey — many economists’ top labor market indicator — fell farther behind year-ago levels, reflecting economic weakness.

Mississippi’s jobless rate is tied for seventh-highest among states, with Alaska worst at 6.7 percent. The nationwide jobless rate rose to 4.7 percent from November’s 4.6 percent.

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.

“When I look at the numbers, the first thing that I do is that I realize the regions of the state are very diffent from each other,” said Garrick Combs, executive director of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce. 

“I don’t really look at what’s happening in the Jackson Metro area, or Hattiesburg, or the area around Memphis,” Combs said. “I look at the 11 or 12 counties around us to kind of gauge the health of the region. We typically fare pretty well in the communities around us.”

Out of 82 counties, 27 have an unemployment rate equal to or less than the state average. DeSoto and Rankin counties are tied for the lowest rate at 4.0 percent – up slightly – while Issaquena retains the highest at 17.2 percent, a large step backward from its previous 11.8 percent. Lincoln County is ranked 26th in the state, along with Oktibbeha County, which had the same unemployment rate.

All of the surrounding counties south of Jackson had an unemployment rate higher than Lincoln County’s 5.6 percent. Those numbers are:

Copiah — 6.4 percent

Lawrence — 6.5 percent

Walthall — 7.2 percent

Pike — 6.4 percent

Amite — 7.1 percent

Franklin — 6.8 percent

Jefferson — 12.8 percent

Out of all the counties in Mississippi, only seven were at or below December’s national unemployment rate of 4.5 percent.

Lincoln County had 13,660 employed people in December, out of a labor force of 14,470. The 5.6 percent jobless rate translates to 810 people unemployed. In December 2015, the county had 13,560 people employed from a labor force of 14,560. The jobless rate was 6.9 percent or 1,000 people.

“The numbers themselves stay pretty consistent,” said Combs. “I haven’t been notified or no one has told the Chamber of any large amounts of layoffs in any of the economic sectors that make up a lot of our community. We want to make sure we keep a good relationship with our major employers to make sure we prevent any major type of job loss in the area.”

There were about 73,700 unemployed Mississippians in December, out of a labor force of 1.29 million. Both the workforce and the number of unemployed grew slightly from November, where the revised statistics report 1.286 million in the labor force and 67,300 unemployed.

The workforce has also risen slightly from last year. In December 2015, MDES reported that out of 1.299 million in the workforce, 92,300 were unemployed.