By NEMS Daily Journal
After averaging 12 percent unemployment last year, Northeast Mississippi didn’t see much improvement to start 2011.
At least for now.
According to preliminary figures provided by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security on Wednesday, the 16-county region’s jobless rate jumped from 11 percent in December to 11.9 percent in January.
Statewide, the rate stayed the same at 10.1 percent.
But the unemployment rate doesn’t tell the whole story about the employment outlook – MDES says the numbers will change.
The state agency said that a comparison of the December and January figures are not totally compatible because of the annual, federally required process of revising data with more information from 2010.
That process should be completed later this month, and revised figures will be released. Comparisons of the numbers then will be valid, MDES said.
Rather than delaying the release of the preliminary figures any longer, MDES opted to publish the information, it said.
Based on those preliminary figures, the labor force in the region grew from 209,960 in December to 214,360 in January.
The number of employed grew by about 2,000 people. But because there was a bigger increase in the labor force, the number of unemployed grew by a bigger margin, and as a result, the jobless rate also rose.
Up but down
Statewide, MDES said the largest job decreases were in trade, transportation and utilities, government and leisure-hospitality. There were 15,300 fewer jobs in January than in December, although the figure was up 13,000 from January 2010.
State Economist Darrin Webb said the January report was difficult to gauge because of the pending adjustments.
“Before the January report, we were seeing slow gains,” Webb said. “I think after the adjustments are made, you continue to see a trend of slow gains. The economy is not going gangbusters, it is improving.”
Fifteen of the Northeast Mississippi counties posted double-digit jobless rates in January, with Clay County’s 18.5 percent the highest. Lafayette County had the lowest, at 9.4 percent.
If the figures hold, January’s rate would mark the 24th time in the past 25 months the region recorded double-digit unemployment rates.