By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
Two days before Christmas, and the Grinch still has a tight grip on jobs.
In Northeast Mississippi, the jobless rate for November was 11.1 percent, marking nearly two years of double-digit unemployment in the 16-county region.
The unemployment rate for the area has been in double digits for 22 of the past 23 months, averaging 11.6 percent over the period.
“It’s tough out there,” said Jef Brandon, who lost his manufacturing job two months ago, during an interview at The Mall at Barnes Crossing. “But I do have a couple of interviews lined up, so I’m hopeful.”
Business leaders across the state seem a bit more hopeful, too. A recent poll conducted by the Mississippi Economic Council showed that 32 percent of business leaders believe the economy is improving and 28 percent believe they will have more employees within the year.
But hope doesn’t necessarily translate into jobs just yet.
Statewide, the unemployment rate in November was 9.8 percent, up from 9.7 percent in October.
A year ago, the rate was 10.4 percent. In Northeast Mississippi, the rate last November was 11.4 percent.
The Mississippi Department of Employment Security said the number of unemployed Mississippi residents rose from 127,500 in October to 129,000 in November.
In Northeast Mississippi, that figure rose from 23,090 to 23,330, compared with 23,820 people last year.
The region should get some relief in the next few months as Toyota Motor Corp. ramps up hiring for its Blue Springs plant and Toyota suppliers also begin hiring.
Toyota Mississippi is expected to employ about 1,200 workers when it opens next fall, and about 2,000 workers when it’s fully operational in early 2012. Suppliers are expected to employ another 2,000 workers.