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Clarke County leads state in jobless rate

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
July 26, 2002
For the second consecutive month, Clarke County led Mississippi with the state's highest unemployment rate.
Clarke County's jobless rate jumped to 19.9 percent in June, up from 19.3 in May. The trend began earlier this year when Burlington Industries announced it would close its Stonewall plant.
Burlington closed in the spring, leaving more than 800 workers without jobs.
Paul Mosley, president of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors, said Thursday the recent rise in the county's jobless rate has surprised many people.
Mississippi unemployment statistics for June were released Thursday. Besides Clarke County's rate, unemployment also rose statewide to the highest level in seven years.
The statewide unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in June, the highest since 7.4 percent the same month in 1995. The nation's jobless rate was 6 percent in June.
In Lauderdale County, the jobless rate also saw a small increase. Lauderdale County's unemployment rate rose to 7 percent in June, up from 6.7 percent in May.
Lauderdale County economic developers have been trying to market Meridian's new industrial park as a possible site for a supplier plant to feed two nearby automobile manufacturing plants in Canton and Tuscaloosa.
Paul Mullins, who runs the Mississippi Development Authority's Asian office, said recently he's been dealing directly with Hyundai trying to recruit suppliers to the Meridian area.
The MDA on Thursday released an analysis of labor needs and other factors related to creating an automotive industry cluster in the state.
An industry cluster is a geographic concentration of sometimes-competing, sometimes-collaborating firms. The state will use the analysis as it creates a strategy to attract more automotive jobs.
Nissan, which will begin production in Canton next year, has said it eventually will employ 5,300 people in Mississippi.
Thirty-three of the state's 82 counties had double-digit unemployment rates including Clarke County. Coming in a close second was Webster County, which reported a 19.5 percent rate.
The MESC has opened an office in Clarke County to help ease the unemployment problem there. Mosley said the office helped enroll some of the unemployed at local junior colleges.
Mosley also said county officials are currently involved in "heavy negotiations" with several companies about possibly locating in Clarke County. He said he could not say who the companies are and could not specify what type of businesses they were.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.