March 28, 2013 10:19:40 AM
Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]
Unemployment rates are beginning to inch downward from the January highs, according to data released by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security Wednesday.
Lowndes County reported a drop from 11.6 percent to 10.8 percent, while Oktibbeha County dropped from 11.1 percent to 9.6 percent in February. Clay County continued to struggle under a staggering 19.3 percent unemployment rate, only marginally dropping from January's 20.6 percent.
The state unemployment rate continued to outpace the national figures, with Mississippi posting a drop from 10.7 percent to 9.9. percent, still above February's national average of 8.1 percent.
The industries reporting the greatest employment gains were construction, 5.3 percent; leisure and hospitality, 2.1 percent; and professional and business services, 1.8 percent.
The gradual decline between January and February is typical, said Mary Willoughby, of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. In January, unemployment rates escalate because workers hired for temporary jobs during the holidays tend to leave the work pool and employees of colleges and universities may not have returned from the Christmas and New Year's breaks by the time the numbers are compiled. By February, the post-holiday numbers begin to normalize.
Unemployment rates tend to rise in July as well, due to school employees being out of work for the summer and an influx of high school and college job seekers.
Approximately 17,300 non-farm employment jobs were added last year, Willoughby said. Most of those jobs were in professional and business services, the leisure and hospitality industry and trade transportation and utilities.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.