Archived Story

Unemployment rates dip to 8.7 percent

Published 12:00am Saturday, June 16, 2012

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi’s unemployment rate fell slightly in May as more residents found jobs.

The state’s unemployment rate fell to 8.7 percent in May from 8.8 percent in April, according to figures released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the lowest level since March 2009 and 2 percentage points below the state’s 10.7 percent jobless rate in May 2011.

The number of unemployed Mississippians fell to 116,000, down slightly from April and down from 143,000 a year ago. Meanwhile, the number of people who said they had a job rose by about 3,000 to 1.22 million.

A separate survey of employer payrolls shows the number of nonfarm employees in the state fell during the month and was also below its May 2011 level.

Mississippi retained the eighth-highest jobless rate among the states. Nevada’s 11.6 percent unemployment rate remained the highest, while North Dakota’s stayed the lowest at 3 percent.

The national unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent in May from 8.1 percent in April. The national jobless rate remained below the 9 percent level of May 2011.

Sharp decreases in Mississippi’s unemployment rate in recent months had been driven by a falling labor force, but the number of people looking for work rose in May for the first time in five months. That could signal a return to the steady labor force increases that prevailed in 2010 and 2011. That increase in job seekers had helped keep Mississippi’s unemployment rate in double digits for 28 straight months ending in January.

County-level unemployment numbers won’t be released by the state until Wednesday.

The broadest measure of those who are unemployed — which includes people who are looking for work only sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can’t find a full-time job — averaged 15.5 percent in Mississippi over the 12 months ending March 30, the most recent figures available.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 15.6 percent during the same time.

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 in Mississippi, at 1.088 million, fell by 2,600 from April to May, when seasonally adjusted. Total jobs were about 1,000 fewer than a year ago, another measure of weakness in the state economy. Federal authorities said last month that Mississippi’s economy went back into recession in 2011, and growth signals for early 2012 have been mixed.

Mississippi was among seven states where payrolls shrank from April 2011 to April 2012, according to federal figures.

The state is almost 73,000 jobs short of the pre-recession peak in payroll employment.