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Unemployment rate rises in May

By Staff
from staff and wire reports
June 28, 2003
JACKSON (AP) Mississippi's jobless rate rose in May to 6.5 percent, higher than the national rate of 5.8 percent.
In April, the statewide jobless rate was 6.1 percent.
Some of May's jump in unemployment was from student job seekers trying to find work in a tight labor market, said Jan Garrick, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Employment Security Commission.
In East Mississippi, Kemper County had a 12.2 percent unemployment rate, followed by 9.5 percent in Clarke, 7.6 percent in Lauderdale, 6.3 percent in Newton and 4.5 percent in Neshoba counties.
The state lost jobs in manufacturing, trade, transportation, utilities and government last month. It added jobs in construction, education and health services, leisure and hospitality and agriculture.
Other employment data from the Department of Labor shows that Mississippi, like the nation, continues to feel the effects of a soft economy in which employers are laying off workers, slashing hours and slowing down expansion plans.
In Mississippi even though average hourly wages have gone up since last year average weekly salaries are falling because employers are cutting workers' hours to save money.
People are just not working as much; that tells you that things have slowed down,'' said Wayne Gasson, chief of labor market information for the Employment Security Commission.
There are some areas of strength in the state labor market, say Michael Wald, regional economist for the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics in Atlanta. North Mississippians are finding work in Memphis, the Gulf Coast is benefiting from tourism and that area as well as Vicksburg, Natchez and Tunica are reaping the benefits of a strong casino industry, he said.
But overall, Wald said, the firings are slowing down but you're not getting the hirings either.''
The strongest employment area last month was Lamar County, where the 3.1 percent jobless rate was the lowest in the state. The highest rate was the 20.2 percent reported by Jefferson County.
Statewide, the number of mass layoff events, those involving 50 or more workers, increased in May to nine from the eight reported in April. Nationally, there were also more mass layoffs 1,699 compared to 1,576 in April.
Nationwide, regional and state unemployment rates were generally stable in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All four U.S. regions and 45 states recorded rate changes of 0.3 percent or less from April.
Unemployment rates fell from April to May in 23 states and the District of Columbia, increased in 18 states and were unchanged in nine states.
The number of Mississippi workers on nonfarm payrolls dropped slightly in May to 1.124 million from 1.128 million in April. Including Mississippi, nonfarm employment increased in 34 states last month, fell in 14 states and the District of Columbia and was unchanged in two states.
Nationally, the lowest jobless rate among nine geographic regions was 4.5 percent recorded by the West North Central region. The highest regional rate was 6.8 percent recorded for the Pacific region.
The lowest state rates were again recorded by South Dakota and North Dakota, which reported 3.2 percent and 3.5 percent respectively. Oregon again reported the highest jobless rate, 8.2 percent, followed by Alaska and Washington, at 7.3 percent each.