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Unemployment falls alongside workforce

Lincoln County’s unemployment rate continues to fall and tied an annual best in October, but the size of the local workforce — and the number of people working — is falling right along with it.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security’s report on October labor rates shows the county’s unemployment rate down to 4 percent, which ties the year’s previous low in March and positions the county to break into the 3-percent range if next month’s tally reflects strong holiday hiring. Lincoln County has not seen 3-percent unemployment in 20 years, since a rate of 3.9 percent was reported for November 1998.

The county’s unemployment rate appears to be falling due to a steady decline in the local workforce. October’s data shows a Lincoln County labor pool of 14,560, which is down 170 workers since September and 570 workers since a July’s 15,130. The number of employed workers is also slipping — 13,970 workers were getting paid in October, down 110 job-holders since September and 390 since July.

Summer numbers are usually inflated by students working part-time and temporary jobs while on break from school, and late-year numbers jump back up as businesses take on additional workers to meet Christmas shopping demands.

The October report moves the county’s statewide unemployment ranking up to No. 18, tied with Covington County. Rankin County, as always, holds the top spot at 3.1 percent, while Jefferson County remains on the bottom, though much improved, at 10.3 percent unemployment.

Lincoln County continues to have the advantage in Southwest Mississippi, with Lawrence County following at 4.9 percent unemployment, Copiah County at 5.0 percent, Franklin and Pike counties at 5.2 percent and Adams County at 5.5 percent. Nearby Simpson County is one-tenth better than Lincoln at 3.9 percent unemployment, and Marion County is close behind at 4.6 percent.

Lincoln County’s 12-month moving average for unemployment is 4.6 percent, with an average of 680 unemployed seeking jobs. The county’s October rates this year cap a trend of five-year improvement — October unemployment was 4.2 percent in 2017, 5.5 percent in 2016, 5.7 percent in 2015, 6 percent in 2014 and 7.1 percent in 2013.

On the state level, Mississippi improved a tenth from September to October, with unemployment dropping from 4.8 percent to 4.7 percent, with 800 fewer unemployed for a total of 60,800 job-seekers. The statewide workforce totaled 1,225,700 workers, which was 900 fewer than in September.

The nation took a small step backward in October, however, as unemployment rose by 110,000 workers to 6.07 million. The national unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent, as the labor force grew to 162.6 million workers, 156.5 million of whom are working.

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.