By Dennis Seid
The last time the unemployment rate in Northeast Mississippi was near 7 percent, George W. Bush was president, Lehman Bros. was still in business and gas prices hit a then-record $3.50 a gallon.
The Great Recession, as it would be called, had begun four months earlier, its global economic impact to be felt later.
Six years later, the economy has improved, though the recession’s after-effects still remain.
Still, the employment picture has improved, and in Northeast Mississippi, the latest figures reflect that sentiment.
In April, the region’s 16 counties averaged 7.2 percent unemployment, the lowest since the 6.4 percent jobless rate in April 2008.
The most recent number also is the 10th consecutive month the unemployment rate was under double digits – the longest streak since May 2005-December 2008.
Last month, more people in Northeast Mississippi found jobs even as fewer people looked for jobs.
Statewide, the jobless rate was 7.5 percent in April. The figure is adjusted to cancel out seasonal changes. On a nonadjusted basis, the rate was 6.8 percent.
County figures are provided only on a nonadjusted basis.
Still, the employment outlook for Northeast Mississippi remains positive. The string of single-digit jobless rates is a stark contrast from 2009-2011, when the region endured 10 percent or higher unemployment for 35 of the 36 months.
April’s rate was 1.1 percentage points lower than March and 1.3 percentage points lower than a year earlier.
For the first four months of the year, the jobless rate in the region averages 8.1 percent.
Lafayette County’s 4.9 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in the region and sixth-lowest in the state. Rankin County, in central Mississippi, has the lowest at 4.2 percent.
Clay County (14.7 percent) has the highest jobless rate in the region, though it trails Issaquena County (16.3), which is located in the Delta.
All 16 counties in the region posted lower jobless rates in April than in March. Clay was the only county with its rate in double digits, compared to four counties a month earlier.
Meanwhile, initial unemployment benefits claims in April rose to 8,632, compared to 7,979 in March. But last month’s numbers were sharply lower than the 11,478 jobless claims made a year earlier.
Continued claims were 73,571 statewide last month, about 11,000 fewer than March and 18,000 fewer than a year earlier.