Region’s jobless rate ticks upward

news_economic_greenDaily Journal

For the first time in nine months, the unemployment rate for Northeast Mississippi increased.

But the results for the first quarter of this year are much improved compared to the same time a year ago.

The 16-county region posted an 8.9 percent jobless rate in March, up from 8.3 percent in February and the highest since September’s 9 percent showing.

Still, the March unemployment rate was better than last year’s 10.1 percent figure.

Also, so far this year the region hasn’t recorded a double-digit unemployment rate. In 2013, the first quarter averaged 10.3 percent unemployment; this year the average is 8.5 percent.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security said last week that the state’s unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent, from 7.4 percent a month earlier. Last year, it was 9 percent.

The national unemployment rate was flat from February to March at 6.7 percent, but below the 7.5 percent level of March 2013.

State and national figures are adjusted to reflect seasonal changes, while county figures are not.

On an unadjusted basis, the state rate was 7.9 percent in March, down from February’s 8 percent and last March’s 8.5 percent.

Still, for the 16 counties of Northeast Mississippi, the jobless rate stayed under double digits for the ninth consecutive month. The region was hit hard during the depths of the recession from 2009-2011, with the jobless rate at 10 percent or more for 35 of the 36 months.

Lafayette County (5.8 percent) had the lowest rate in the region in March, good enough for fifth-best in the state. Union County (6.3) has the second-best rate in the region and 10th best statewide.

Clay County (17.2) had the highest unemployment rate in the region and second-highest in the state.

In March, employment fell in Mississippi in sectors including trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; education and health services; leisure and hospitality and construction. It rose in manufacturing, financial activities and government.