By Data Stream
By JEFF AMY
JACKSON – Mississippi’s unemployment rate fell to 9.9 percent in January, as the number of people with jobs rose.
It’s the first time unemployment has dipped below 10 percent in the state since September 2009.
The jobless rate was down from 10.4 percent in December and 10.5 percent in January 2011. Despite the decrease, Mississippi had the fifth-highest jobless rate among the states in December.
The number of unemployed fell to 133,700 in January, down from more than 140,000 in both December and in January 2011, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of people looking for jobs fell by 2,500, partially accounting for dips in both the number of unemployed people and the unemployment rate.
Unemployment rose in 49 counties. It was flat in five counties and fell in 26. Those numbers aren’t adjusted to smooth out normal seasonal fluctuations, and local unemployment rates often rise in January, in part because retailers lay off the extra workers they hired for the Christmas season. Rankin County retained the state’s lowest jobless rate, at 6.3 percent. Holmes County had the highest unemployment rate, at 18 percent.
The broadest measure of unemployment, which includes people who are only looking for work sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can’t find a full-time job. The figure averaged 16.5 percent in Mississippi over the 12 months ended Sept. 30. Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 16.2 percent during the same time.
The nationwide unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent in January from 8.5 percent in December. February figures show the national unemployment rate held steady at 8.3 percent. Nevada again posted the nation’s highest unemployment rate in December, followed by California, Rhode Island, North Carolina and then Mississippi. North Dakota again posted the lowest jobless rate among the states.
Mississippi’s labor force had been increasing steadily since late 2009, which is one reason why the unemployment rate has risen in Mississippi even when it has been flat or falling most of the nation. But the number of people working or looking for a job fell in January. That could accelerate improvements in the unemployment rate if it continues, even if it’s a mixed signal for the broader economy.
The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure that many economists look to as their top labor market indicator.
The payroll survey found that total jobs, at 1.09 million, fell by 1,000 from December to January, when seasonally adjusted. Total jobs were also more than 2,000 lower than a year ago, another measure of weakness in the state economy.
The decrease means Mississippi is farther from reaching its pre-recession peak in payroll employment. The state is still 73,000 jobs, or 6 percent short of where it was before the recession began.
Seasonally adjusted payrolls grew in the manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and government sectors, but shrank in all other sectors.