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Workers, labor pool down for September

Lincoln County’s unemployment rate fell for the third-straight month in September and appears to be heading for the floor, as the number of workers and the size of the workforce continue a decline from summer.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security’s report on September labor rates dropped Lincoln County’s unemployment rate down to 4.4 percent, a big fall that continues from June’s year high of 5.7 percent and is just four-tenths of a percentage point away from matching the 2018 low of 4 percent recorded back in March. But the improving unemployment number is not the result of added jobs, it’s just the opposite — the county’s labor pool is down another 100 workers from August, and 40 fewer people are employed.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Garrick Combs said the numbers should level out as the holiday season approaches.

“I expect many local businesses to add temporary staff toward the end of the year, and unemployment should trend downward and stabilize,” he said.

Labor rates for July showed a summer surge of 15,130 workers in the county, with 14,360 employed. The unemployment rate then was higher at 5.1 percent, but in three months the size of the labor pool has decreased by 400 workers, while the number of employed workers has fallen by 280.

September’s statistics show a Lincoln County workforce of 14,730, with 14,080 employed.

The new report bumps the county’s statewide ranking up a few spots to No. 23, tied with Harrison, Neshoba and Tishomingo counties. Rankin County continues to host the state’s smallest group of unemployed workers at 3.3 percent, while Jefferson County is again ranked last with an unemployment rate of 13.7 percent — still at the bottom, but a full percentage point improvement over August’s numbers.

Lincoln County is still tops in Southwest Mississippi, with Copiah next at 5.5 percent, Franklin and Pike at 5.6 percent, Lawrence at 5.8 percent and Adams at 5.9 percent. Regionally, 61,460 workers are employed from a total labor force of 65,410. Southwest Mississippi’s unemployment rate is down to 6 percent, and 3,950 are unemployed — 280 more jobs than last month.

Lincoln County’s 12-month moving average for unemployment is 680 job-seekers at 4.6 percent, and current-month numbers continue to excel over the same month in previous years — September unemployment was 4.7 percent in 2017, 5.5 percent in 2016, 5.9 percent in 2015, 6.3 percent in 2014 and 7.4 percent in 2013.

Statewide, unemployment stayed at 4.8 percent from August to September, though 100 more people found jobs to bring the total number of unemployed workers to 61,600. The labor force was recorded at 1.28 million, with 1.22 million employed.

Gains were bigger nationwide, as the United States’ unemployment rate fell from 3.9 to 3.7 percent for September, with an additional 420,000 finding work to bring the total number of employed workers close to 156 million. The American labor force is close to 162 million, about 49 percent of the population.

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.