Why unemployment is dropping in the Golden Triangle

Staff Writer

According to data released this month by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, Oktibbeha County unemployment has dropped from December 2015 to December 2016.

The data reads that unemployment in Oktibbeha County was at 5.6 percent in December 2016, down from 6.7 percent the year prior.

According to MDES Director of Labor Market Information Mary Willoughby, the drop in unemployment is a trend from the state level down, due in part to a strengthening of the U.S. economy.

“I think the economy’s getting better,” Willoughby said. “Pretty much everything has gone down from December of last year to December of this year.”

Willoughby also said that in many cases, employment opportunities in surrounding counties would draw citizens across county lines to work, bust still count for the employees’ county of residence.
“Unemployment data is residence-based,” Willoughby said.

Oktibbeha County had the lowest unemployment in the Golden Triangle, with Lowndes County slightly higher, with 5.9 percent and Clay County with the highest at 7.7 percent.

Willoughby said some of the Golden Triangle data, particularly for Oktibbeha County, might be a little skewed because of to the absence of working students in the area when the data was collected, due to Mississippi State University being on winter break.

The state of Mississippi reported its lowest overall unemployment in more than 12 years at 5.7 percent, with unemployment being listed at 5.6 percent in January 2004.

Over the past five years, Mississippi’s unemployment has dropped consistently due to the end of the Great Recession. However, there was a slight increase from December 2014 to December 2015.

“(From) 6.9 percent to 7.1 percent wasn’t much change, but from December to December, it’s been a steady decline since 2011,” Willoughby said.

Rankin County had the lowest unemployment in the state at 4 percent, while Issaquena County had the highest at 17.2 percent.