May 23, 2013 10:36:51 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Oktibbeha County unemployment numbers continued improving, with April statistics showing a drop from 8.4 percent in March to 7.8 percent in April. That's an estimated 1,660 people seeking employment.
But despite the improvement, unemployment rates are expected to trend upward again over the next three months as they have in previous years, partly due to college students having limited success finding summer jobs, said Mary Willoughby, chief of labor market information for the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
"May rates go up because students are getting out of school, and if they're not working but looking for employment, that's considered unemployed," Willoughby said.
Lowndes County's unemployment numbers were down six-tenths of a percent from March, continuing a trend that has occurred yearly since 1996.
The rate of 9 percent -- an estimated 2,440 people -- is down from 9.6 percent in March. The last time unemployment rates increased between March and April was in 1995, when it increased from 5.3 in March to 5.6 in April.
But though the April rate is lower than the previous month, it is still higher than last year's 8.5 percent -- a trend, in itself. Rates in each month this year have been up from 2012, although signs of leveling off exist. This past January, the rate was 11.6 percent -- more than 1 percent higher than January 2012's 10.5 percentage.
Lowndes County unemployment continues to be above the state average of 8.2 percent, which is more than 1 percent higher than the United States average of 7.1 percent. MDES estimates approximately 107,300 unemployed people statewide.
"You can't look at what has gone on in just one county," Willoughby said. "In the Jackson area, one county affects other counties. You have to look at the whole area. These are residence-based estimates. It's based on where people live and not where they work."
The industries that saw the greatest amount of employment increases between March and April were leisure hospitality, construction and transportation and utilities, respectively.
Clay County also saw decreased numbers from March to April. Issaquena County overtook Clay as the county with the highest unemployment rate in the state. Clay County's rate decreased 1.2 percent between March and April, reporting 17 percent, or approximately 1,260 people unemployed. Issaquena registered at 17.3 percent.
Monroe and Noxubee counties had rates of 11.7 and 13.4, respectively. The Noxubee County percentage is down nearly 1 percent from March, while Monroe County rose four-tenths of a percent.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.