Unemployment down in county, says auditor

Published 10:25 am Friday, February 28, 2014

A pending piece of federal legislation to extend unemployment benefits is vital for out of work Mississippians, a representative from Mississippi Department of Employment Security said Thursday.
The benefits extension is pending in Congress after a previous extension expired in December, Nathaniel Williams, an auditor for the MDES for a multi-county area that includes Warren, Sharkey and Issaquena Counties said.
“We needed it at that time, and we need it again,” Williams told Port City Kiwanis on Thursday. “We’re waiting on  the legislation now.”
The countywide unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in December, down 0.4 points from 8.8 percent in November, according figures released in January by MDES. January figures have not yet been released.
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 vast majority of people use unemployment as it is intended, but fraud cases aren’t unheard of, Williams said.
“We have people filing unemployment for other folks,”  he said.
Williams pointed to two cases where women filed false claims in the names of their husbands, though he did not say which county the claims were filed in.
One of the husbands was deceased, he said. The other was unaware that his wife had received $10,000 in unemployment benefits in his name, Williams said.
Everyone receiving unemployment benefits is Mississippi is required to come to a WIN Job center once a month for help looking for work, he said. Job seekers are also required to prove they have been seeking employment.
Unemployment insurance is paid for by employers. Rates range from .45 percent to 5.4 percent based on a number of factors including unemployment claims, he said.
“When you don’t pay, it goes on your credit report and we will get it back,” he said. “We’ll take your state taxes and your federal taxes.”