By Daily Journal and Associated Press
The unemployment rate in Northeast Mississippi ended last year much like the way it started – high and in double digits.
But that’s been the case for the past three years for the 16 counties in the region. For the 34th time in the past 35 months, the region endured yet another double-digit unemployment rate in December.
Preliminary figures provided by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security showed the region had a 10.7 percent unemployment rate last month. It was unchanged from November, and 1.2 percentage points lower than January 2011.
In December 2010, the rate was 11.2 percent.
For all of 2011, Northeast Mississippi averaged an 11.3 percent jobless rate – lower than the 11.7 percent logged in 2010 but slightly higher than the 11.2 percent rate posted in 2009.
Statewide, the rate dropped slightly, from 10.5 percent to 10.4 percent, as more people withdrew from the labor force.
Mississippi had the fourth-highest unemployment rate nationwide last month.
The broadest measure of unemployment, which includes people who are only looking for work sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can’t find a full-time job. The figure averaged 16.5 percent in Mississippi over the 12 months ended Sept. 30. Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 16.2 percent during the same time.
The nationwide unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent in December from 8.7 percent in November.
In Northeast Mississippi, the labor force – the number of people employed and seeking employment – was unchanged from November to December, based on MDES estimates.
Fifty-nine of the state’s 82 counties recorded double-digit jobless rates in December, including 12 Northeast Mississippi counties.
Calhoun (8.6), Lafayette (8.2), Lee (9.7) and Pontotoc (9.3) had the lowest rates in the region. Lafayette was the sixth-lowest in the state.
Clay County’s 19.1 percent jobless rate was the highest in the state.
The state is still 60,000 jobs, or 5 percent, short of where it was before the recession began.
Payroll totals shrank most sharply in the professional and business services sector, which is a smaller sector of the economy in Mississippi than in most states. The second-largest job loss was in the government sector, while payroll totals also fell in the education and health services sector and the trade, transportation and utilities sector. Manufacturing grew at a healthy clip.
State economist Darrin Webb said he expects payroll totals to grow about 0.8 percent in 2012, slightly faster than in 2011.