Local jobless ranks, rate fall again

Published 10:50 am Thursday, January 30, 2014

A smaller local workforce coupled by a slight enough dip in employment ranks lowered Warren County’s jobless rate for the third straight month to close out 2013.
The numbers coincided with national figures that still showed people continuing to drop out of the labor force.
The countywide rate was 8.4 percent in December, down 0.4 points from 8.8 percent in November, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
Recent drops in the rate, which tracks those either working or actively seeking employment, have resulted from smaller pools of workers and either a slowly rising or nearly level number of people employed. In December, the labor force countywide was 19,590, down by 70 people since November. The ranks of those counted with a job rose to 17,950, down by 140. Preserving a rosier overall jobless rate was the slip in the number of those without a job, which was at 1,640 for the month, down by 90.
Claiborne County’s rate was lower in December, showing 11.7 percent versus 12.3 percent the month before. Sharkey and Issaquena counties showed higher rates, at 10.9 and 10.4 percent, respectively, both up at least a point.
Statewide, unemployment stood at 7.3 percent, down from 7.6 percent in November. Adjusted for seasonal factors in the workplace, the rate was 8 percent. On Tuesday, the Labor Department reports 102,000 Mississippians were unemployed in November, down from 107,000 in November and 119,000 in December 2012. Mississippi’s rate tied Kentucky for seventh-worst nationally. Rhode Island’s was worst, at 9.1 percent. North Dakota, the third-smallest state in the union and where the economy is buoyed by oil extraction jobs, had the lowest jobless rate, at 2.6 percent.
That decline was more than cancelled out by a 9,000-person decline in the labor force, meaning fewer people actually reported having jobs. Mississippi’s labor force has fallen nearly 5 percent in the last two years, as people have retired, gone back to school or otherwise given up looking for work. Sectors that lost jobs statewide were in manufacturing and leisure and hospitality, while those that gained jobs were in trade, professional and business services and education, according to MDES.
Nationally, joblessness was 6.5 percent, down a tenth of a point. The state’s labor force in December also shrank, coming in at 1,267,700, down by 13,200 people.
The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure many economists use as their top labor market indicator.
Mississippi’s nonfarm payrolls rose by 500 during December to 1.13 million people. That’s 19,000 above year-ago payroll levels, a healthy improvement. But Mississippi remains almost 4 percent below the pre-recession high.
The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 15 percent in Mississippi during the 12 months ended September 30, the most recent figures available. That number includes people who are looking for work only sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can’t find a full-time job.
Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 14.1 percent during the same time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.