May 26, 2016 10:48:00 AM
Each month, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security releases its Labor Market Information Report, more commonly known as unemployment rates.
While there is a lot of data in these reports, most of the focus is directed toward unemployment data for the state and each of its 82 counties.
Rarely does this report produce big revelations - the rates neither increase nor decrease at a dramatic pace from month to month.
What we have seen in the past few years is Mississippi following the national trend as the nation recovers from the recession of 2008.
The jobless rate has declined steadily, especially in the last couple of years.
Sometimes big things happen in small increments, however. So when the April 2016 report came out this week, we found that the Golden Triangle has reached a significant milestone when it comes to unemployment.
The April report shows all four counties in our area have unemployment rates not seen in at least 10 years.
Noxubee County's unemployment rate of 6.8 percent is the lowest it has been in 19 years. Lowndes (5.2 percent) and Clay (6.9 percent) counties haven't had jobless rates that low since 2001. Oktibbeha County's April 2016 jobless rate of 4.5 percent hasn't been this low since 2016 and you have to go back to May 2001 to find an unemployment rate lower than that. It should also be noted that the jobless rate in Oktibbeha County is lower than the national average of 4.7 percent.
When we think of unemployment, we often believe that the biggest factor in reducing the jobless rates is big industry. Certainly, the arrival of a major industry, with the hundreds of jobs it brings, has a significant impact.
But what the numbers tell us is that big industry is not the only job-creator. In fact, it may not even be the most significant job creator. Outside of the arrival of Yokohama Tire in Clay County, which has added more than 300 jobs to date, no other big businesses have opened in the Golden Triangle. Even so, the jobless rate has continued to decline steadily.
This is a powerful reminder that small businesses have a tremendous impact on unemployment rates. Big industries don't come along every day, of course, yet new businesses are popping up almost every week it seems. A new small business may create only a few jobs, but when dozens of new businesses open, those numbers add up.
While it is true the unemployment rate is more of a snapshot of economy than an all-encompassing evaluation, there can be no disputing that there are more jobs and more people filing those jobs than in quite some time.
We should be encouraged by these numbers. They are also a reminder that all of us play an important role in fighting the scourge of unemployment. We do that best when we shop locally and support the new businesses who continue to move the needle when it comes to unemployment.
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