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State’s jobless rate at lowest point in 41 years

As unemployment rates fall in Lincoln County and the state as a whole, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security also is also advancing in technological initiatives.

The Department of Labor recently awarded MDES a grant of $2.7 million to advance the State Longitudinal Data System, a system of programs that enable Mississippians to obtain career training and find good jobs.

Mississippi is the first state ever to receive this grant.

In Mississippi, the labor force also dropped slightly from 1.306 million to 1.303 million, or 0.1 percent, April to May, and the unemployment rate dropped from 64,800 to 64,100, 5 percent to 4.9 percent, according to data released this week from MDES.

This is Mississippi’s lowest level of unemployment since the labor department first began publishing rates in January 1976.

Rankin and Issaquena counties continue to hold tightly to their respective spots for lowest and highest unemployment rates, the capital county of Rankin at 3.9 percent and the river county of Issaquena at 12.8 for May.

Lincoln County remains in its general location among the list of 82 counties, tied at 30th with Webster County at 5.4 percent.

The counties surrounding Lincoln County ranged from 5.9 in Copiah to 12.6 in Jefferson, just barely below Issaquena. Pike County’s unemployment rate was 6 percent, Franklin was 6.6, Amite and Lawrence were tied at 6.7 and Walthall sat at 7.1 percent.

Lincoln County’s labor force for May was 14,690, with 13,900 employed. The unemployment rate of 5.4 percent translates into 790 persons unemployed.

Looking at the five-year comparison of unemployment rates (the month of May for each year 2012 – 2017) , Lincoln County’s rate has steadily decreased. The rate for 2012 was 8.7 percent, dropping to 8 percent in 2013, then to 6.9 percent a year later, 6.5 percent the following May, then 5.8 percent in May of 2016, finally landing at 5.4 percent this year.

If the trend is able to continue over another 12 months, the unemployment rate for the county in May 2018 would be a remarkable low of 5 percent.

MDES is pushing to use new technology to help the trend continue and spread across the state.

“Connecting the SLDS data with our employment, training and supportive services will empower Mississippi to make better decisions about workforce development,” said MDES Executive Director Mark Henry. “We can track the progress of Mississippians who complete training and get jobs in the state, and then concentrate on the most successful programs to ensure that we are suing the taxpayers’ dollars in the most efficient and effective way.”

MDES was the first state workforce agency to develop a mobile app that employers can use to find qualified workers, and that workers can use to find jobs. The agency also launched an app allowing people to perform weekly certification for unemployment benefits from their phones. Mississippi also leads the first state consortium to successfully launch a multi-state unemployment insurance technology project.

“MDES’s success with our other technology initiatives was the key to Mississippi becoming the first state to receive this type of grant,” Henry said.

Mississippi was also the first state to submit a workforce plan, required by the new federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and the first state to have its plan approved by the USDL.

Nationally, the labor force has dropped slightly from 160.2 million in April to 159.8 million in May  — 0.3 percent. The nation’s unemployment rate has dropped as well, down from April’s 4.4 percent with 7.06 million, to 4.3 percent in May with 6.86 million.

The labor force is made up of everyone who has a job or is looking for one.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said this rate “is the lowest it has been since May 2001, dropping .5 percentage points since President Trump took office.” Acosta added that U.S. Department of Labor data shows that 738,000 jobs have been created in that time period.