Local jobless rate jumps sharply

1STOCK Computer Job Hunting EmploymentHOUSTON – Chickasaw County’s jobless rate climbed to 13.4 percent in January and is now one of the highest in Northeast Mississippi.

Surrounding counties also saw higher unemployment rates as ag-related businesses and farms experience the winter slowdown that idles many who work in fields and forest the rest of the year.

Chickasaw’s jobless rate was topped only by Monroe and Webster counties in this area at 14.5 and 14.8 percent respectively. Clay County continues to lead the region in unemployment at 20.6 percent.

Union County reported 8.9 percent and Pontotoc County recorded 9.3 percent unemployment.

The winter rise in unemployment was reflected across the state. Mississippi’s unemployment rate was 10.7 percent in January. It was 8.6 percent in December and 10 percent in January 2012. Chickasaw County has averaged 10.8 percent unemployment over the past 12 months.

The U.S. unemployment rate stands at 8.5 percent.

The number of people who reported having a job fell even as the state’s labor force shrank. Mississippi reported 141,000 unemployed people in January, up from 123,000 in December and 135,000 in January 2012.

The state’s job market grew in the fall after hitting a rough patch in the middle of 2012. Overall performance has been feeble, with 4 percent fewer people with jobs than in January 2008.

Metropolitan areas continue to attract workers and report job growth. Rankin County had the state’s lowest unemployment at 6.6 percent.

A separate survey of employer payrolls shows nonfarm employees fell slightly from December but remained above levels of January 2012.

The three industry sectors that experienced the greatest gains over the past year were Manufacturing; Trade, Transportation, and Utilities; and Professional and Business Services.

The national unemployment rate for December was 7.8 percent, which was the same as the November level. The stable job market at the national level had helped breathe some life back into Wall Street, which has seen the numbers indicate a growing economy.

As the housing market improved nationwide, the region saw the furniture industry benefit. The industry is closely tied with how housing fares: The more homes sold, the more furniture is sold. Several manufacturers, including Southern Comfort, H.M. Richards and Washington Furniture expanded operations during the year.

Other manufacturing companies – mostly existing industries – also expanded and added jobs.

Chickasaw County ranked 60th among the state’s 82 counties up from 54 in December.

Chickasaw County’s estimated labor force was, 7,440 in January down significantly from 7,790 in December and 7,660 in November. There were 6,440 employed persons in January down from 6,930 in December.

Chickasaw County figures were released by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. MDES also is charged with providing services to help people obtain jobs.

“Helping Mississippians get jobs is our agency’s mission, and that means we are working every day to improve the lives of the people of our state,” said Mark Henry, MDES Executive Director.  “Innovative programs, like our new campaign to encourage employers to hire veterans called ‘Hire Mississippi Heroes’, match qualified Mississippians with employers who are eager to hire them.”

MDES offers free job posting, applicant screening and referrals and E-Verify services to businesses hiring in the state.  You can learn more about Hire Mississippi Heroes and the services provided to employers and to Mississippians looking for jobs at mdes.ms.gov.

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