March 13, 2014 10:37:27 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
There is good news in the latest state unemployment figures, which report Clay County had the highest jobless rate in the state last month.
The jobless rate in Clay County was down more than 3 percent compared to a year ago. That's about 37 people there who didn't have jobs when 2013 began. Now they do.
The county, which has consistently had the highest jobless rate of Mississippi's 82 counties since two plant closures in the mid-2000s led to hundreds of layoffs, had a 17.4 percent jobless rate last month -- about 1,220 -- compared to 20.6 percent in January 2013.
Those figures come from the Mississippi Department of Unemployment Security, which also reports unemployment rates down across the state. Seasonally adjusted, the rate is 7.5 percent, the lowest it has been since November 2008.
Out of 11 non-farm employment categories, construction saw the highest percentage increase statewide and the second highest increase in workers two months ago from January 2013. That's 10.2 percent -- a net increase of 4,700 from 46,200 to 50,900.
That result can, in some part, be traced to the amount of construction jobs created in Clay County as a result of Yokohama Tire Company opting to locate its first American plant there. Data from the Golden Triangle Development LINK reports an estimated 1,000-1,200 new construction jobs created so the plant, the road leading to it and the infrastructure needed to support it could be built.
Other Golden Triangle county rates reflect the statewide trend. Lowndes County's rate was 9.3 last month, a 2.3 percent dip from January 2013. Oktibbeha County's jobless rate 14 months ago was 11.1. That dropped 2.6 percentage points to 8.5 percent this past January. Noxubee County also saw a decrease from 17.3 percent in January 2013 to 15.7 percent two months ago.
MDES data estimates a total of 4,550 from those three counties seeking work in January.
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. The county figures presented are not seasonally adjusted.
Statewide, about 99,100 people were looking for work, 10,000 fewer than in January 2013. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the improvement is the result of the state's commitment to economic development and building a stronger business climate.
"I set a goal of seeing the unemployment rate in Mississippi fall to at least 7.5 percent, and preliminary figures show we have reached that benchmark. This success motivates us to continue working hard to connect even more Mississippians with jobs," Bryant said. "We know that the task will not always be easy. The administration in Washington continues to push job-killing policies and to burden businesses with onerous mandates, so jobs figures could fluctuate during this time of uncertainty. However, I said when I became governor that my first job was to make sure that every Mississippian who wants a job can find one, and that remains my chief priority."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.