UPDATE: Mississippi's jobless rate climbs to 9.8 percent

JACKSON — Mississippi’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent in June, an increase of about two percentage points from the same period a year ago, according to figures released Wednesday.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security reported 129,000 people were unemployed last month, up from 127,500 in May and 102,800 in June 2008. Mississippi’s unemployment rate was 9.6 in May and 7.7 percent last June.

The national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent last month.

Rankin County had the lowest rate in the state at 6.2 percent. Jefferson County at 20 percent had the highest rate followed by Holmes County at 19.4 percent, Claiborne County at 18.2 percent and Noxubee County at 17.6 percent.

Mississippi paid $35.7 million in unemployment benefits in June compared to $13 million during the same period last year, a 173.7 percent increase.

The State Board of Institutions of Higher Learning’s monthly publication of leading and coincident economic indicators said Mississippi’s individual income tax withholdings continue to decline along with other state tax revenue as unemployment ticks up.

Marianne Hill, a senior economist for the IHL’s Office of Institutional Research, said Wednesday that with traditional tax bases in decline, cities may need to consider revising their tax structures and the state should monitor corporate tax breaks.

“Several states now have common reporting requirements for multistate corporations to ensure accurate reporting of profits,” Hill said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “Many also monitor tax breaks for their effectiveness. Mississippi could learn from their experiences.”

Employment in Mississippi has declined in manufacturing, professional and business services, trade, transportation and utilities and leisure and hospitality over this year compared to the same period a year ago.

Hill has predicted unemployment will continue to rise into 2010. She has also forecast the unemployment rate will climb to 10.4 percent before the year is over.

Employment levels are not forecast by Hill to return to 2000 levels until 2014 because of the predicted slow pace of recovery. The last recession began in March 2001 and Mississippi hadn’t fully recovered from it before the current recession struck.

Timothy R. Brown/The Associated Press