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State jobless rate rises

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
March 20, 2001
With one exception, unemployment rates in east Mississippi counties mirrored the slight rise shown statewide in statistics released Monday by the Mississippi Employment Security Commission.
The exception was Wayne County, where the January 2001 unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent from December's 9.2 percent.
Seasonal layoffs, bad weather and several plant closings left more Mississippians jobless in January, the Associated Press reported Monday. The state's unemployment rate was 5 percent for January, up from 4.3 percent in December.
And the head of the Mississippi Employment Security Commission, which tracks the numbers, said the rate is likely to climb even more in coming months.
Locally, the jobless rate rose slightly. In Lauderdale County, the January rate was 4.5 percent, up from 4.2 percent in December.
In other area counties, the picture was similar:
Clarke County's January figure stood at 9 percent, up from 8 percent in December 2000.
Kemper County's January unemployment was 8.3 percent, up from 7.2 percent in December.
Neshoba County's January unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, up from 3.7 percent in December.
Newton County's January unemployment rate was 5.1 percent, the same as December 2000.
Noxubee County and Winston County recorded the area's worst unemployment rates at 15.4 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively.
Statewide, officials attributed the rise in unemployment to layoffs and cutbacks taking place almost daily at major companies.
We've been very fortunate to have some growth, but eventually what happens at the national level is going to affect us,'' MESC Executive Director Curt Thompson said.
Mississippi, which ended 2000 with its lowest unemployment rate in nearly 30 years, already has been hard hit by plant closings and layoffs this year.
More than a dozen companies, primarily in the northern half of the state, have announced closings or staff reductions since January, and others damaged by recent storms have shut down temporarily.
The layoffs of seasonal retail workers also are reflected in January's figures.
There were 1.3 million people in the state's work force in January 17,000 more than in January 2000.
Several largely agricultural counties had double-digit unemployment rates in January, led by Issaquena County at 27.3 percent and Sharkey County at 22 percent. Holmes County, which has had a couple of major plant closings, was at 21.4 percent.
Of the state's 82 counties, 16 had double-digit rates.
At the other end of the tally, 29 counties had rates lower than January's national rate of 4.7 percent.
Lafayette County, home of The University of Mississippi, came in with the lowest rate at 1.9 percent. Rankin County was next at 2 percent, and Lamar and DeSoto counties each posted rates of 2.3 percent.
The jobless rate in the three coast counties averaged 3.4 percent in January.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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