County’s unemployment inches up after holidays

Published 12:05 pm Thursday, March 10, 2011

A greater percentage of Warren County’s work force was unemployed in January compared to revised figures for December.

Local unemployment stood at 11.2 percent for January, from an adjusted 10 percent in December, said totals released Wednesday by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. The local labor force shrank by 940 people in January, from 22,670 to 21,730. The number of unemployed rose by 170, to 2,440.

Seasonally adjusted unemployment statewide was unchanged at 10.1 percent in January. Unadjusted for seasonal factors in the work force such as weather and holidays, the rate was up a point to 10.7 percent.

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State officials said a federally mandated process of updating and revising the previous year’s data had not been completed. As a result, the jobs agency said comparisons were “not strictly compatible.”

The national jobless rate, which came in at 9 percent in January, fell to 8.9 percent in February. The state reports February figures later this month.

State Economist Darrin Webb said the January report was difficult to gauge because of the pending adjustments.

“Before the January report, we were seeing slow gains,” Webb said. “I think after the adjustments are made, you continue to see a trend of slow gains. The economy is not going gangbusters, (but) it is improving.”

The Warren County jobless rate is down compared to a year ago, when it stood at 12.5 percent.

“The Vicksbug WIN Job Center continues to see a small increase in job activity within the area,” said office manager Terry Hodges. “The retail and service sectors have also seen a slight increase.”

Thirty visits with local employers were made in the past three weeks to promote services at the Monroe Street office, Hodges said. Also, five professional development workshops for job-seekers and business owners are set for April.

MDES said the largest job decrease in January, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, came in the trade, transportation and utilities category, with 5,500. Of that number, 4,100 were in retail trade, which typically cuts its holiday work force in January.

Government employment fell by 3,300 from December, with 1,900 of those jobs tied to local education. Jobs in leisure-hospitality, which includes the tourism and casino businesses, fell by 3,200 from December.

Compared with January 2010, Mississippi posted a net job loss of 100 in the goods-producing sector. Service-providing jobs rose by 13,100, though all levels of government shed 3,700 jobs in the face of tightened spending, especially by local school districts, MDES said.

Rankin County posted the lowest jobless rate in the state, at 6.9 percent, up from an adjusted 6 percent in December. Tunica County had the highest, at 21.1 percent, followed by Holmes County at 19.3 percent.

Among area counties, Claiborne County’s unemployment rate stood at 16.9 percent for the month, up from 14.6 percent in December. Issaquena and Sharkey counties posted increases, with Issaquena up nearly five points to 16.4 percent and Sharkey up a point to 14.9 percent.