MDES chief: Unemployment leveling

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Les Range, the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, said his agency wants to do more to help lower the state’s unemployment rate.
“We’ve got 10,000 jobs available on our website from employers across the state, but we want more companies to list their jobs with us,” Range said at the First Friday meeting at The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
Range said companies like Toyota have used the MDES website to allow people to apply for job openings.
“We do more than provide unemployment benefits,” Range said. “We also help with job training and job placement.”
He noted that unemployment rate for the 16 counties comprising Northeast Mississippi in February was 11.2 percent – higher than the state (10.4 percent).
“The Northeast Mississippi group of counties has historically shown an unemployment rate higher than the state and the U.S.,” he said, “although during 2010, the gap between the region and the state and U.S. began to close.”
Manufacturing took the biggest hit in the region from 2006 to 2010, based on MDES figures.
Range said manufacturing employment was 51,155 in 2006, falling to 31,176 through the end of the third quarter last year.
Total employment in the region was 179,606 five years ago, rising to 184,097 a year later. But last year, employment was 165,750.
“It does appear that while Mississippi is continuing to show decreasing employment, Northeast Mississippi appears to have leveled off,” Range said. “This is true for total employment and also for manufacturing employment, which is the largest industry in the region.”
Range said the economy should continue to recover and improve, with Toyota and its suppliers adding a boost for the region.