State’s joblessness rate falls to single digits, lowest since July 2009

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi’s unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent in February, the lowest level since July 2009.

Jobless figures for January had first appeared to dip to 9.9 percent in preliminary numbers, but later were revised up to 10 percent. The state recorded a 10.2 percent unemployment rate in February 2011.

The number of unemployed people fell to 128,000 in February, down from nearly 135,000 in January. The number of people with jobs increased by about 1,000, while about 5,000 people stopped looking for work, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

The unemployment rate fell from January to February in 79 counties. It was flat in two counties and rose only in Leake County. Rankin County retained the state’s lowest jobless rate, at 6.1 percent. Tunica County had the highest unemployment rate, at 17.4 percent.

County-level numbers aren’t adjusted to smooth out normal seasonal fluctuations.

The broadest measure of unemployment, which includes people who are only looking for work sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can’t find a full-time job, averaged 16.5 percent in Mississippi over the 12 months ended Sept. 30.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 16.2 percent during the same time.

The nationwide unemployment rate stayed level at 8.3 percent from January to February.

Mississippi’s labor force had been increasing steadily since late 2009, which is one reason the unemployment rate has risen in Mississippi even when it has been flat or falling in most of the nation.

The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure that many economists look to as their top labor market indicator.

The payroll survey found that total jobs, at 1.08 million, rose by only 700 from a year ago on a seasonally unadjusted basis. Economists point to the payroll survey as evidence of weakness in Mississippi’s economy.

Mississippi remains far from reaching its pre-recession peak in payroll employment. The state’s payroll job total is about 6 percent short of where it was before the recession began.

Seasonally unadjusted payrolls grew in the manufacturing, government and health care and social assistance.

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