Region’s jobless rate moves down

Economic NewsDaily Journal

Northeast Mississippi’s annual unemployment rate dropped for the second straight year, falling to 9.3 percent in 2013.

The average for 2012 was 9.4 percent.

The region wrapped up 2013 with a December jobless rate of 7.6 percent, the lowest since April 2008, when it was 6.4 percent.

While jobless rates haven’t returned to pre-recession levels, the back-to-back annual figures under 10 percent are a vast improvement compared to 2009-2011, when the region was straddled with double-digit unemployment rates for 35 of the 36 months during the span.

The region finally broke the string in February 2012.

With the economy improving in fits and starts, the 16 counties that comprise Northeast Mississippi have been able to log single-digit jobless rates for 18 of the past 24 months.

Labor figures earlier this week showed the state economy overall was slowly improving as well.

The state jobless rate – adjusted to cancel out normal seasonal changes – showed Mississippi’s unemployment was 8 percent in December, the lowest since January 2008.

The national unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December from 7 percent in November. It was also below the 7.9 percent level of December 2012. As in Mississippi, the December nationwide drop stemmed from people giving up their job search.

County figures are not seasonally adjusted, but they still indicate a trend of lower unemployment for Northeast Mississippi.

While the recession officially ended in December 2009, its effects lagged in Mississippi. Unemployment hit a peak in February 2010 at 13.7 percent.

The region started 2013 with 11.1 percent unemployment, but since June, the rate has dropped from 10.4 percent to 7.6 percent.

In December 2012, the rate was 9.6 percent.

Two announcements in the past week have started the year on a good foot. On Monday, General Atomics announced it was adding 80 jobs to its eighth expansion in the Tupelo Lee Industrial Park South in Shannon. Two days later, German vehicle supplier Grammer AG said it was moving its U.S. subsidiary’s manufacturing headquarters in the same park, with up to 650 jobs.

Those announcements helped soothe news earlier in the month that the parent company of Lane Furniture Industries was laying off 480 workers at its Saltillo plant by March.

Other furniture manufacturers in the region indicated they could absorb most of those losses, however.