Mississippi recorded its lowest annual unemployment in more than two decades in 1997 averaging a 5.7% unemployment rate, according to the Mississippi Employment Security Commission (MESC).
MESC Executive Director Thomas E. Lord announced that the 1997 rate was the lowest in the state since 1974 when the rate stood at 4.6%.
Lord attributed the low rate to two major employment trends. One being the creation since 1993 of approximately 30,000 jobs directly attributed to the casino industry, and the other being that the manufacturing sector with the exception of the apparel industry has remained steady. The approximately 30,000 total casino jobs does not include employment created indirectly by the casino industry, such as jobs at motels, hotels and restaurants, Lord said.
“We are pleased to be able to announce this economic improvement in Mississippi and we are very optimistic about the future,” Lord said.
Lafayette County led the state in employment in 1997 recording an annual unemployment rate of 2.3% while Jefferson County had the highest annual unemployment rate of 15.5%, records showed. The rates in 1997 for other selected counties were DeSoto 3.3%, Harrison 4.6%, Hinds 4.0%, Jackson 5.3%, Lauderdale 5.1%, Lee 4.8% and Rankin 2.5%.
The 1997 numbers continue a downward spiral in the unemployment rate in Mississippi which have fallen annually the last five years. Lord said the state unemployment rate still remained above the national average for 1997 which was 4.9%.
In January, the unemployment rate rose slightly from the previous month, but still remained below the January, 1997 rate. The January increase was due to seasonal layoffs in agriculture and retail trade following the holiday season, according to MESC Labor market Analyst Bill McNeece. Also contributing to the increase, he said, was the fact that inclement weather curtailed outdoor work such as forestry, agriculture and construction during January.
Local rates of unemployment ranged from a low of 2.1% in Lafayette County to a high of 22.4% in Issaquena County, McNeece said. He predicted that conditions should change only slightly in February because similar seasonal influences remain.