October 9, 2012 10:18:44 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
Are you better off than you were a year ago?
Statistically speaking, it seems likely.
Data released by the Mississippi Department of Employment Services (MDES) shows unemployment rates fell in August in every county. But the more telling data is comparing August unemployment numbers to those of the previous August.
Those figures, said Mary Willoughby of the MDES, are a more reliable measure of the employment outlook in Mississippi.
"The unemployment rates from July to August dropped the most, but that's probably a function of students going back to school and leaving the job market," Willoughby said. "This is one of those times of the year when the numbers are affected by seasonal patterns."
But the comparisons between August 2012 and August 2011 are not influenced by those changes, since the same conditions apply to both years.
In that regard, the numbers are encouraging.
In Lowndes County, unemployment dropped from 10.8 to 8.9 percent from August 2011 to August 2012. In Oktibbeha County, the rate fell by 1.3 percent.
The drops are even more dramatic in Noxubee County (a 4.5 percent decline) and Clay County (a 2.5 percent drop).
Even so, Clay County, with an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent in August, was the highest among the state's 82 counties. Noxubee County was 77th.
"All of the counties' unemployment rates have gone down," Willoughby said. "I do think things are looking a little better, especially when you look at the numbers from a year ago."
Mississippi's unemployment rate fell by 2.4 percent when comparing August's numbers to those of August 2011.
Unemployment numbers are seasonally-adjusted only at the national and state level. U.S. unemployment, adjusted seasonally, was 8.1 percent for August.
In Mississippi, the seasonally-adjusted rate for August was 9.1 percent.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]