County Unemployment

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 13, 2009

January unemployment figures in northwest Mississippi

Panola’s unemployment rose to double digits in January

By Billy Davis

The latest unemployment figures in Panola County show the monthly rate jumped to 11.1 percent in January after hovering in single digits for at least two years.

The newest figures from the Miss. Development of Employment Security (MDES) show 1,670 people are unemployed in Panola County from a civilian labor force of 15,000.

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Panola County’s unemployment rate has climbed even higher in recent years, rising to 12 percent in 2005, but the latest figures are included in an upswing, both in the state and nationwide, during the current recession.

Mississippi’s unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in January, a total of 120,500 workers. That number is an increase from 85,600 in January 2008, when the statewide unemployment rate was 6.5 percent.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in January from 7.1 percent in December. The number of unemployed jumped from 10.9 million in December to 13 million in January.

The unemployment rate in January 2008 was 5.4 percent, with 8.2 million unemployed.

The results of a rise in unemployment can be seen at the Batesville WIN Job Center, which is averaging 150 walk-ins a day, said office manager Ashanti Hoskins. The job center’s clients register at the front desk.

“That number is above average,” she said. “Our front door is like a revolving door.”

The WIN Job Center is located behind KFC in the Tyler Town shopping center.

The foot traffic has increased at the job center after Batesville plant Muscle Shoals closed its doors in February, Hoskins said.

Many Panolians are also employed at the Whirlpool plant in Oxford, which has announced it will shut down this spring. The first of three layoffs is coming March 26, though some workers had already been let go, according to Hoskins.

Better news from the job center is that no other Batesville plants have announced lay-offs recently, Hoskins also said.

The WIN Job Center operates as a job-seeking site for adults seeking employment. Computers at the job center are designed for job searches, and a weekly class, held each Friday at 9 a.m., helps job seekers work on resumes and improve their interview skills.

Instead of seeking jobs in a recession, many job seekers are considering enrolling at Northwest, Ole Miss, or at several local truck driving schools, Hoskins said.

For job seekers who qualify, the state of Mississippi can help pay for classes, she said.

MDES also oversees job fairs across the state, including the Northwest Mississippi Area Job Fair in Batesville.

The next Northwest job fair is scheduled for April 30 at the Batesville Civic Center. 

 Marks resident Charlene Locke, seated Thursday at a table at the job center, said she was using the job center computers to search for part-time work. With her children grown, she wants to re-enter the workforce, preferably in the medical field, after leaving a secretarial job more than a year ago.

A second option is going back to school, and she was aware that the WIN Job Center can help pay for classes.

“I watch the news so I know what’s going on,” Locke said. “I told my friends I picked a fine time to go back to work.”