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No change in work force, jobless rate for Lincoln County

Lincoln County’s work force and unemployment rate both did a surprising thing in December — they did not change.

The labor rate — the percentage of people who said they were looking for work but were unable to find employment — remained at 5.6 percent, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. That’s 820 people, the same number of people searching for work unsuccessfully in November. 

The total number of individuals who have left the workforce has not changed since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, remaining at 370. People leave the work force by becoming full-time students, becoming an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces, moving away from Lincoln County or through death.

At this time of year across the past five years, the unemployment rate has dropped from 6.2 and 6.1 percent in 2014 and 2015 to 4.9 and 5.1 in 2017 and 2018. This December’s rate remains slightly above the average for those years, but not out of line for the season.

Statewide, the civilian work force has dropped slightly from November’s 1.29 million by 1,900. The work force is 13,300 higher than the previous December, however. The state’s unemployment rate is 5.7, up from November’s 5.6 and December 2018’s 4.7 percent, though the number of individuals unemployed has increased by only 200 over the 12 month period. Nationwide, 5.75 million people were unemployed out of a work force of 164.5 million, staying steady at 3.5 percent, though the number of those out of work has decreased by nearly 60,000.

Lafayette and Rankin counties were tied for lowest unemployment rate, at 3.7 percent. Across the state, 37 counties had unemployment rates equal to or less than the state average. Lincoln County was in the 37th position — tied with Webster County — and at the state average.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were Wilkinson (11), Humphreys (11.1) and Jefferson (16.9). Counties adjacent to Lincoln County had rates of 6 to 16.9 — Copiah (6), Pike (6.4), Lawrence (6.7), Franklin (7.1), Amite (7.2), Walthall (7.3) and Jefferson (16.9).

At the top of the list, Lafayette County had a labor force of 29,650 with 1,090 unemployed (3.7). Rankin County had a labor force of 76,360 with 2,860 unemployed (3.7). The county with the lowest physical number of people unemployed was Issaquena, with only 30 looking for work. Because the county’s workforce is only 360, however, the county’s percentage of unemployment was 9.2 percent.

The county with the largest physical number of people unemployed was Hinds, with 5,720 out of work. Because the county’s work force is 110,140, however, that percentage is relatively low at only 5.2 percent.

The state is divided into four workforce development areas — Delta, Mississippi Partnership, Twin Districts and Southcentral Mississippi Works. The Southcentral area is made up of 17 counties, including Lincoln, Franklin, Copiah, Lawrence, Walthall, Pike and Amite. MDES reports the top 10 occupations in the area, based on annual demand, are cashiers, retail salesperson, wait staff, general/operations managers, food prep and service workers, janitors/cleaners, laborers and freight movers, customer service representatives, administrative assistants and heavy/tractor-trailer truck drivers — in order from No. 1 to No. 10.

Of the top 10 occupations based on annual demand, heavy/tractor-trailer truck drivers and general/operations managers have annual openings greater than the regional average and pay greater than the regional average. Thirty-one of the top 100 occupations in demand reported average earnings above the area average of $41,732 per year. Forty-nine of the top 100 occupations require little or no formal training.

Monthly estimates of the labor force, employment, unemployment and unemployment rate are generated by the Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program, a cooperative effort between the Bureau of Labor Statistics and State Employment Security agencies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines an individual employed if they did any work at all for pay or profit during the survey week; this includes all part-time and temporary work as well as full time year round employment. Unemployed individuals are those who do not have a job, have actively looked for work during the past four weeks and are currently available for work. The sum of employed and unemployed produces the Civilian Labor Force.