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‘Alarmingly high’ jobless rate expected for Adams County

NATCHEZ — Adams County unemployment could reach an “alarmingly high” rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic development official said.

In March, the unemployment rate was 6.7% in Adams County, which was higher than the average for the state of Mississippi at 5.3%.

“I believe you will see our unemployment rates setting an all-time record,” said Chandler Russ, Natchez Inc. executive director. “I suspect it will be along the lines of the Great Depression rate in regards to the size and scope of those who filed for unemployment. We could have as high as 30% unemployment rate in Adams County.”

On Friday, the Associated Press reported that April’s U.S. unemployment rate, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, surged to 14.7%, a level last seen when the country was in the Great Depression.

“And because of government errors and the particular way the Labor Department measures the job market,” the Associated Press reports, “the true picture is even worse. By some calculations, the unemployment rate stands at 23.6%, not far from the Depression peak of nearly 25%.

“The Labor Department said Friday that 20.5 million jobs vanished in April in the worst monthly loss on record, triggered by the coast-to-coast shutdowns of factories, stores, offices and other businesses.”

The downturn has struck all sectors of Adams County’s economy as well, Russ said.

“Those employees in hotel, restaurants, service industry and businesses that were (determined) to be nonessential, were shutdown,” Russ said. “Therefore, their employees filed for unemployment and received their benefits.”

Russ said service industry employees took a hit locally.

“When the hotels are no longer receiving people, the employer has to basically let them go and the employees filed for unemployment,” Russ said. “The oil economy also crashed during this time period, which is a big sector of the economy that’s in oil exploration and services. Then, our tourism economy and restaurants were greatly affected. Natchez is going to have be impacted at a little higher rate than the rest of the state due to the tourism and the oil being greatly affected because of COVID-19.”

While April’s unemployment numbers for Mississippi are not yet available, prior to the beginning of March, the unemployment rate was 6.5% in Adams County, 5.3% in Mississippi and 4.5% in the United States. Russ said there were approximately 730-740 people looking for jobs in Adams County.

“You can easily see that number triple into the 2,220 range of unemployed,” Russ said. “It could be higher than that in Adams County.”

Going forward as businesses start to open back up in Adams County in the future, Russ said he has high hopes for the unemployment rate to decrease again.

“Our ultimate hope is that we continue to see our economy return as people go back to work and we have the ability to continue to open nonessential businesses and everyone can gradually safely go back to work,” Russ said.

“As the jobs return, you will see that gradually comeback. Our goal is that the full return is when everybody can safely go back to work and we don’t have any considerable resiliency affects the unemployment numbers.”