While most Mississippians are reeling more from the price of gasoline at the pumps than from what’s happening on Wall Street, there were some encouraging jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this week. The nation’s unemployment rate dipped to 8.9 percent as employers added almost 200,000 new jobs in February.
That marks the third consecutive months of decreases in the unemployment rates, clearly the strongest showing since the recession began in 2007. But that news was tempered by increased volatility in world crude oil prices based on the unrest in northern Africa and the Middle East.
Crude prices reached $104 per barrel while the national average price per gallon at the pump for regular unleaded gasoline rose to $3.47 – up 20 cents from a week ago.
But while the national numbers improved, Mississippi’s most recent jobless numbers remained at 9.7 percent. Oktibbeha County’s unemployment rate was the 14th best in the state at 8.8 percent. Rankin County set the state’s pace at 6 percent while Noxubee County’s jobless rate languished at 19.2 percent.
There were 128,000 Mississippians counted as unemployed by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
In the region, Choctaw County’s jobless rate was 10.7 percent while Lowndes County posted 11.1 percent. Webster County has 12.9 percent unemployment, trailed by Winston County at 16.5 percent and Clay County at 17.3 percent.
Compared to other “town and gown” counties, Oktibbeha County’s 8.8 percent was higher than Lafayette County’s 7.5 percent jobless rate and Forrest County’s 8.3 percent.
While the jobs numbers nationally are encouraging, Mississippi recovery will still be impeded by rising food and fuel costs. Those numbers are getting about as much scrutiny these days as any other economic indicators.