Unemployment ticked up slightly throughout the Golden Triangle in December, reversing a three-month trend in decreases, according to the latest statistics released Wednesday by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
That’s the bad news.
The good news, says MDES spokesman Mary Willoughby, is that those numbers should not be cause for alarm.
“December unemployment was up in every county in the state but one,” Willoughby said. “But that’s not uncommon at all. December numbers are always higher. January numbers will probably be higher, too, based on what we’ve seen over the years.”
Willoughby said the biggest factor in the uptick in jobless rates is because college students are out of class.
“Those numbers are based on the workforce,” Willoughby said. “When students get out of classes in December and part of January, if they are not working but available for work, they are counted as being unemployed. That skews the numbers.”
Perhaps of greater significance, Willoughby said, was comparing December’s unemployment rates to those of December 2013.
“Just about across the board, the unemployment rates are lower now than they were a year ago,” she said. “That’s probably a better indicator of where we are headed.”
In Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties, the unemployment rates compared to December 2013 are lower. In Noxubee County, the jobless rate was 0.4 percent higher in December 2014 than 12 months prior.
Meanwhile, the five-year comparison of unemployment rates show that Mississippi, like other states, is making steady progress. The unemployment rate in December 2014 in Clay County is 6 percent lower than it was in December of 2013. It was 5.3 percent lower in Noxubee County, 3.8 percent lower in Lowndes County and 3.5 percent lower in Oktibbeha County.
“Historically, in times of recessions, the recession comes to Mississippi later than other states, but we come out of recession later, too.”
Mississippi’s overall unemployment rate in December is 7.1 percent. The national jobless rate in December was 5.4 percent, the lowest it has been since 2008.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.