By NEMS Daily Journal
Northeast Mississippi’s unemployment numbers in November were a double-edged sword.
On one side, the region’s jobless rate dropped to 7.9 percent, its lowest point since April 2008.
However, fewer people sought work. The labor force – the number of people with jobs or actively pursuing jobs, dropped fell by about 4,000 people.
Still, last month’s jobless rate was under 10 percent for the eighth time this year. Entering 2012, the region’s jobless rate had been in double digits for 35 of the previous 36 months.
So far this year, unemployment has averaged 9.4 percent in the region.
The numbers have improved since the depths of the Great Recession, which battered the economy on all levels. Last year, unemployment averaged 11.5 percent in Northeast Mississippi, a slight improvement from 11.7 percent in 2010. Three years ago, the region averaged 11.2 percent unemployment.
Statewide, the unemployment rate also improved last month, with 81 of 82 counties posting lower rates.
Rankin County’s 4.6 percent remained the lowest jobless rate. Clay County’s 16.1 percent remained highest.
Most counties saw unemployment fall because fewer people sought work. The number of people telling surveyors they had jobs fell in 53 counties. In larger counties, employment grew only in Forrest and Lamar counties.
Lee County, the largest county in Northeast Mississippi, saw about 400 people employed in November. But its unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent from 8.4 percent a month earlier.
County-level rates aren’t adjusted to cancel out predictable seasonal changes.
Seasonally adjusted, the state’s jobless rate fell to 8.5 percent in November from October’s 9 percent. November 2011’s rate was 10.6 percent.
Lafayette County had Northeast Mississippi’s lowest rate at 5.4 percent, which also was the fourth-lowest in the state.
Pontotoc (6.6 percent), Union (6.7), Oktibbeha (7.2), Itawamba (7.4), Alcorn (7.5) and Calhoun (7.5) were among the top 25 lowest statewide.