Farm jobs driving jobless rate down

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 25, 2001

[05/25/01] Despite job instability in many places across the state, Warren County saw a drop in its unemployment rate last month to 3 percent compared to 3.9 percent in March.

Bill Ray of the Mississippi Employment Security Commission office in Vicksburg said he thinks the economy here is strong, but he doesn’t expect to see the rate continue to decline.

“I think we’ve reached our plateau,” Ray said. “I see students coming in around this time and attempting to enter the labor force, which may increase the rate.”

He said there is also a possibility of rates rising if energy prices continue an upward trend causing businesses to tighten up.

But, he said, the ranking of Warren County’s rate as the 12th-lowest in the state is really unusual and he attributes that to agriculture, tourism and the casino market here.

“It looks real good around here as far as people working,” Ray said. “People aren’t staying unemployed as long as they have in the past.”

The jobless rate across the state also fell to 4.3 percent, down from 5.6 in March.

“Traditionally, April is a month when the rate goes down because agricultural and construction work usually begins at that time,” Jan Garrick, director of Communications for the Mississippi Employment Securities Commission, said.

“We expected to see a drop, but we didn’t know it would drop so much.”

Surrounding counties also saw a decrease in its unemployment rate although many still ranked high in the state.

Issaquena County had the second-highest unemployment rate in Mississippi with 14.5 percent, a decrease from March when the rate was 24.5. Copiah County fell slightly from 6 in March to 5.8 in April. Claiborne County’s rate dropped to 7.4 in April from 9.6 in March and Sharkey County went from 19.3 in March to 11.6 in April. Hinds County also had a decrease from 4.5 in March to 3.8 in April.

Holmes County reported the highest unemployment rate in the state for April with 16.3. Lafayette had only a 1.5 jobless rate last month.

Garrick said she also expects to see a rise in unemployment rates for May because of people entering the job market and because of job losses from manufacturing plant closures.

However, she said, service jobs make up 75 percent of the state’s economy and that service work around the state is doing great.