Mississippians looking for employment continue to far outnumber jobs available, according to the latest figures on unemployment released by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
The state’s unemployment rate rose to 10.5 percent in July, up from June’s 9.9 percent. However, the seasonable adjusted rate was 9.7 percent, which is the national average.
“It’s hard to predict exactly what’s going to happen,” said Mary Willoughby, MDES bureau director of labor market information. “Unemployment went up slightly in July and it usually doesn’t. Traditionally, the rate goes down, as it did from 1970 until 2005.”
“Unemployment rates in the state are a ‘wait and see’ situation.”
For those seeking employment, the situation remains a bad news, good news scenario.
The bad news is that unemployment figures for Mississippi are expected to get worse before they get better.
The good news is that opportunities for employment are expected to increase by next spring, according to Dr. Marianne Hill, senior economist for the state’s Center for Policy Research, a division of the Institutions of Higher Learning.
Hill said that industrial production, namely the manufacturing and construction industries, has been in dire straits with the lack of jobs in Mississippi.
“Three of four persons who are unemployed nationally are men and that ties into the decline in manufacturing and construction,” she said. “Those industries are important to Mississippi, especially in the northern counties of the state.”
The latest figures released by MDES indicate that 26 North Mississippi counties have unemployment rates of between 12.6 and 19 percent as opposed to only two in the southern half of the state.
Three counties posted unemployment rates greater than 20 percent, with Jefferson County the highest at 21 percent.
Jackson construction worker Lonnie Fortenberry has been jobless since May. Recently married, Fortenberry said the stress of being unemployed is taking its toll.
“It’s hard to pay bills and maintain a decent lifestyle when you are out of work,” he said. “Being without a job is very stressful, and it’s caused me some sleepless nights. But my wife has been very supportive and without her paycheck, we’d be in trouble.”
A McComb native, the 38-year old Fortenberry said he’s fortunate to have some building trades skills that have helped supplement his unemployment insurance.
“I’ve been able to do some home remodeling and different things for friends and family, and that’s helped some,” he said. “But you still don’t have (insurance) benefits and a steady paycheck.”
The MDES reported that $28 million in unemployment insurance benefits was paid out to unemployed Mississippians in July compared to $18 million in the same month last year.
The latest national manufacturing figures reported for July showed both orders and production indicators above the breakeven mark, combined with a continuing contraction in inventories, according to a published July report by IHS Global Insight, a web site dedicated to economic and financial analysis.
The publication reported that manufacturing production climbed 1 percent in July, almost completely driven by the auto industry.
Employers are expected to continue layoffs until next spring, said Hill.
“The lag in employment is due to the fact that employers are reluctant to hire new workers until they are confident that an upturn in the economy can be sustained,” she said. “In Mississippi, the recession hit us later than other states like California and Michigan, which relies heavily on the automobile industry.”
The unemployment rate is interwoven into illustrating the state’s and nation’s economic picture, Hill said.
“Consumers are reluctant to spend but there are signs that spending is on the rise,” she said. “Housing starts are beginning to pick up and with it will come jobs. The economy is starting to grow but very slowly.”
Fortenberry said he is anxious and awaiting some good news about the economy.
“I’m ready to go back to work and contribute financially for my family,” he said.
North and SW Miss. hurt most
1. Rankin County 6.5
2. Lamar County 7.7
3. Scott County 7.8
4. DeSoto County 7.9
5. Madison County 7.9
6. Jones County 8.3
7. Harrison County 8.4
8. Hancock County 8.6
9. Covington County 9.0
10. Forrest County 9.1
82. Jefferson County 21.0
81. Holmes County 20.3
80. Clay County 20.1
79. Noxubee County 19.5
78. Claiborne County 19.1
77. Yalobusha County 17.4
76. Winston County 16.9
75. Monroe County 15.8
74. Montgomery County 15.5
73. Tunica County 14.9
72. Benton County 14.8
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