Region’s jobless rate rises

news_economic_greenDaily Journal

Northeast Mississippi’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in January, up from December’s 7.6 percent rate.

But the figure isn’t a cause for alarm. Despite the increase, the rate was almost two percentage points lower than a year earlier. And January’s rate marked the fourth-lowest unemployment rate for the region since 2008.

The numbers were released last week by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

The state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate for January was 7.5 percent, the lowest since November 2008.

The individual county figures are not adjusted for seasonal variations like holidays and school breaks.

Nevertheless, the overall unemployment rate for the 16-county region that comprises Northeast Mississippi has improved since the last recession.

Last year’s jobless rate for the region was 9.3 percent, down from 9.4 percent in 2012. The back-to-back annual rates under 10 percent were a big improvement compared to 2009-2011, when the region was saddled with double-digit unemployment rates for 36 of the 36 months during the span.

In January, every county in the region posted a higher jobless rate than a month earlier. In addition, four counties saw double-digit rates. However, for the same month a year earlier, 12 of the region’s counties experienced double-digit unemployment rates.

And while Clay County continued to struggle with the state’s highest jobless rate at 17.4 percent, its showing was better than the 20.6 percent rate a year earlier.

The next few unemployment reports will be watched closely to determine if the improved jobless rates can be maintained.

One major closing is Lane Furniture Industries’ Saltillo plant, which lays off the last of its 480 employees this week.

However, other furniture manufacturers in the region have expanded or announced plans to expand, and industry representatives have said they can absorb most, if not all, of Lane’s workers.

Also, several other manufacturers throughout the region have announced plans to expand and add employees.