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Jobless rate rising slowly since spring

A summer slow-down in employment rates nationwide got even slower last month, according to the state’s most recent jobs survey.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security’s labor rate data for June 2018 shows Lincoln County at 5.5 percent unemployment, following a steady upward trend that began at 4 percent in March. The report shows 830 people unemployed for June, up 100 from May’s figure of 730, but Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Garrick Combs said the 1.5-point bump over 90 days is seasonal.

“It makes perfect sense. It’s just following the traditional pattern of university students, community college students and even some high school students exiting the classroom and going on the lookout for summer jobs,” he said. “If traditional patterns hold true, when you’re looking at these numbers in September or so, they’ll settle back into what’s normal. They’ll probably settle even lower when we get to the Christmas season, when we find a lot of temporary workers being brought on.”

The MDES report shows Lincoln County’s workforce last month contained 15,010 workers, with 14,180 employed. An additional 220 people joined the labor pool between May and June, and 120 of them found work.

Lincoln County’s statewide unemployment ranking took a tumble with the new numbers, falling down to No. 20 and tied with Lafayette County.

Lincoln County continues to be the strongest county for workers in Southwest Mississippi, and the only one with an unemployment rate below 6 percent. Copiah County follows at 6.4 percent unemployment, with Lawrence County next at 6.7, Pike County at 6.8, Franklin County at 6.9 and Adams County at 7.4.

Jefferson County continues to hold the tail with 14.4 percent unemployment, followed by Holmes County at 10.6. Rankin County has the lowest unemployment in the state at 4.0 percent — a number Lincoln County held in March, before joblessness began to climb.

It could always be worse. Lincoln County’s 1.5 percent slippage over the past 120 days still leaves it in better shape than it has been for the last six Junes — the unemployment rate for that month was 6.3 percent last year, 6.4 percent in 2016, 6.8 percent in 2015, 7.4 percent in 2014 and 8.7 percent in 2013.

“The employment rate is very healthy for us and very appropriate for our economy,” Combs said. “I think you’ll probably find a lower labor participation rate and a healthier economy than we’ve had in previous years.”

The rise in unemployment has not been limited to Lincoln County, but Mississippi is holding steady.

The Magnolia State’s June unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, the same rate it held in March, as employment matched workforce growth and left joblessness the same. The state’s workforce last month grew by 3,300 workers to a size of 1,281,600, and the number of employed workers grew by 2,200, from 1,218,800 to 1,221,000. That leaves 60,600 Mississippians unemployed, but 1,100-person gap was not big enough to move percentages.

The increase in unemployment was slight from coast to coast, with June’s percentage up to 4 from 3.8 as unemployment grew by roughly one half-million people, from 6,065,000 in May to 6,564,000 in June. The American workforce now contains 162,140,000 workers, up around 600,000 in 30 days, and 155,576,000 are employed.

Monthly estimates of the labor force, employment, unemployment and the unemployment rate are generated by the Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program, a cooperative program between the Bureau of Labor Statistics and State Employment Security Agencies.

Each person who is over the age of 16 and who is not in an institution such as prison or mental hospital or on active duty with the Armed Forces is only counted in one group — employed, unemployed or not in the labor force.

An individual is considered employed if they did any work for pay or profit within the previous week, including all part-time and temporary work as well as full-time employment. Unemployed individuals are those who do not have a job, have actively looked for work within the previous four weeks and currently available for work.