January 30, 2014 10:25:56 AM
A significant decrease in unemployment rates in December 2013 compared to December 2012 were not enough to push 2013's overall jobless rate below 2012's in many area counties.
In 2013, an average of 9.8 percent of Lowndes County's civilian work force was out of a job compared to the 9.6 percent rate in 2012. Noxubee County's rate increased the same amount from 15 percent in 2012 to 15.2 percent in 2013. Clay County, which has been consistently among those with the highest rates in recent years, saw a 1.5 percent overall increase in 2013 to 18.3 percent from 16.8 in 2012. The only county in the Golden Triangle area which saw its overall unemployment rate fall last year was Oktibbeha County, from 9.2 percent in 2012 to 8.9 percent.
Rates for all four counties were above the state unemployment rate of 8.8 percent for 2013, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
Still, there is cause for optimism. Clay County's unemployment rate was 15.6 percent last month compared to 18 percent the previous December. That number represents roughly 1,100 of 7,070 in that county's total labor force, and it was the first time all year when the rate for a month was down from the same month in 2012. Despite the noticeable improvement, it still had the highest rate of all 82 Mississippi counties.
That trend continued areawide. Lowndes County's December 2012 rate was 10 percent. Last month, it was 8.3 percent, or about 2,210 people out of 26,670 looking for work. In Oktibbeha County, 7.4 percent, or 1,530, of the 20,710-person work force was jobless. The unemployment rate there was 9.2 percent in December 2012. The rate has been less than 7.5 percent for two straight months. Data shows the last time that happened was in April/May of 2009.
Noxubee County's unemployment rate was 14.8 percent in December of 2012. Last month there were roughly 470 job seekers, or 13.2 percent.
Statewide, there were about 92,100 people seeking employment. That's a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 7.3 percent, nearly 1 percent above the national average of 6.5.
MDES estimates indicate the seasonally adjusted rate for last month at 8 percent. The rate was 8.3 percent in November and 8.9 percent in December 2012. Seasonally adjusted data removes the effects of recurring events that happen yearly, such as holidays, the influences of weather and the opening and closing of schools and universities. Those percentages are only adjusted at the state and national levels.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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