Lamar County leads state in unemployment

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Rankin and Union counties met the challenge Tuesday presented by Lamar County in December, tying the previous lowest unemployment rate in Mississippi.

Lamar County continued to have a 3.2 percent unemployment rate after leading the state in the November statistics, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. Rankin County’s jobless rate dropped from 3.3 percent in November, while Union County listed 3.4 percent a month ago.

Because of the lower unemployment numbers across Mississippi, the state’s jobless rate fell to 4.6 percent, a new low since current surveys began in 1976.

Mississippi was 4.8 percent in November. That's down from December 2017's 5.5 percent. More people entered the labor force in December and more reported having jobs. Unemployed Mississippians fell almost 3,000 to 58,000.

Mississippi's employer payroll survey, economists' top labor market indicator, reached 1.16 million in December. That surpasses the previous high last tied in February 2008, on the cusp of the recession. It's an 18,000-job gain over December 2017.

National Labor Department statistics show Mississippi was one of three states – along with Hawaii and California – that the jobless rate fell to the lowest levels since records began in 1976 in Hawaii, Mississippi and California. The rate in Hawaii was 2 percent, while Mississippi's dropped to 4.6 percent and California's declined to 4.3 percent.

Nationwide, employers added 148,000 jobs last month and the U.S. unemployment rate stayed at 4.1 percent. Employers added 2.1 million jobs last year, the fewest in seven years. Hiring typically slows as the unemployment rate falls and there are fewer people to hire.

Hawaii has the lowest unemployment rate of all the states, while Alaska's is the highest, at 7.3 percent.

Employers added more jobs in 10 states and cut them in three in December. Employment remained essentially unchanged in the other 37 states.

Wyoming, Montana and Oregon reported the biggest percentage increases in jobs in December. Wyoming added 3,100 jobs, while Montana gained 3,900 and Oregon 14,700.

In all of 2017, Nevada saw the largest percentage increase followed by Oregon and Utah. Nevada added 43,800, Oregon gained 49,300 and Utah added 37,900.

No states saw a significant decline in jobs last year.

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