End of holiday shopping linked to unemployment jump

Published 12:05am Saturday, March 16, 2013

NATCHEZ — The end of the holiday shopping season apparently drove the nearly 2-percent jump in Adams County January’s unemployment rate.

Adams County’s unemployment rate for January was 10.9 percent, up 1.9 percent from the 9-percent rate in December, according to data from Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

Retailers typically add part-time employees to help out during the busy holiday shopping season, and those employees are typically let go when business slows down in January, said Wayne Gasson, office director of workforce information for MDES.

“At the end of the retail season, there’s a drop in the retail trade pretty significantly,” Gasson said. “That’s one of the biggest contributing factors to the January rate.”

Unemployment-rate figures are reported two months after the fact. The figures are calculated by the number of employed Adams County residents, not the number of jobs in the county.

The state unemployment rate for January increased to 10.7 percent from 9.1 percent in December, a continuing trend for many years, Gasson said.

“We’re not surprised; we’ve seen it every year for the past 20 to 25 years,” he said.

Other contributing factors to the increased rate, Gasson said, are the rainy weather’s effect on construction jobs during January.

Russ said the weather also has an effect on the forestry and agriculture industries in December, January and February.

“That’s probably as big a factor as anything right now,” he said.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said seasonal construction coupled with the completion of Magnolia Bluffs Casino could have impacted the unemployment rate.

“In our labor market, it doesn’t take that much to move a percentage point,” Russ said. “So it’s not as big a deal as some would think.”