For a long time, when the monthly jobless report from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security was released, Clay County officials would find their county near the bottom of the list.
These days, the reports are much favorable.
The MDES report released Wednesday shows Clay County continues to find more of its adults joining the workforce. In March, Clay County unemployment stood at 10.5 percent and while that number is still well above the state (6.8 percent) and national (5.5 percent) averages, there is no doubt Clay County is headed in the right direction.
Unemployment is down 1.1 percent since last month and is down an impressive 4.8 percent since March 2014, by far the largest decrease among Golden Triangle counties. Clay County’s jobless rate is a remarkable 7.7 percent lower than it was five years ago, when 17.5 percent of Clay County’s eligible workers were without jobs.
And with the $300 million Phase 1 Yokohama Tire plant scheduled to begin operation in October with 500 workers, the prospects continue to improve.
“I think we’re all pretty optimistic these days,” West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson said. “It just so happens I was out at Navistar earlier today before the job numbers came out and they are really work well, with over 300 people on the job. They’re doing it quietly, without any hoopla, but that’s had a big impact for us. From what I understand, Yokohama is right on schedule and they are beginning to hire production workers. So, yeah, we’re absolutely excited about what’s happening here.”
As a lifelong West Point resident, Robinson recalls that even in the heyday of Bryan Foods, unemployment was higher than in many parts of the state.
“Even then, I think the unemployment rate was about 9 percent,” he said. “When Yokohama opens, we should get down under 10 percent. That’s kind of the magic number for me, single digits. That would be great.”
The same trend, although less dramatic, is evident throughout the Golden Triangle.
Lowndes County’s unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percent since February and is 2.2 percent lower than it was a year ago this month. Unemployment in the county today is 4.8 percent lower than it was in March 2010.
Oktibbeha County boast the lowest jobless rate in the Golden Triangle, matching the national rate of 5.5 percent. That represents a 0.7 percent decrease since last month and is 2.2 percent lower than one year ago this month.
Noxubee County’s unemployment rate fell by 1.1 percent to 10.6 over the past month. That figure represents a 3.5 decrease compared to a year ago and is 5.7 percent lower than it was in March 2010.
As a whole, the Golden Triangle’s unemployment rate is 7.4 percent with 4,320 people without work in a labor force of 58,760.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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