Unemployment rates on steady decline in county

By Daniel Brunty The Winston County Journal

With the unemployment rates decreasing in over two-thirds of the states in the U.S., the country in most areas is benefiting from an increase in hiring. Winston County is one of these areas.

Winston County’s unemployment rate in April 2012 was 11.6 percent. Since the beginning of 2012, the county has seen a decrease in unemployment rates. In January 2012, the rate was 13.6 percent. In February 2012, the rate was 12.9 percent. In March 2012, it dropped even more to 12.2 percent.

In comparison to the state of Mississippi’s unemployment rate average of 8.3 percent and the nation’s at 7.7 percent, it seems very high. However, the numbers don’t always show the progress. Winston County Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Gerald Mills explains how other factors affect the rate, as well as how you can tell when there is progress.

“You have to take into consideration the county’s population,” Mills said. “It is also based on the number of unemployment claims that are processed. So when you look at the unemployment percentage, the percentage really depends on the population of the county looks like. You can have a county that has a relatively small population and would not have anywhere close to the unemployed you would have in another county that would show up as a higher percentage. What you really compare to is the actual number of unemployed people that are out there.”

Mills is looking for a slight increase in the unemployment rate in the summer months, but this is nothing unusual for this time of year. “The thing about June and July typically is the unemployment rate jumps up a little bit because you got a graduating class of high school students who go into the labor market,” Mills said. “I still think, however, with the trend we are in now, there is still a chance of the rate decreasing this summer.”

What is having a major effect on the unemployment rate in the county is not a lack of jobs, but a lack of skilled workers for these particular jobs. “The problem we got by in large is that every employer in Winston County will hire,” Mills said.

“However, does the person they are trying to hire have the skill level to do the job and can they pass the drug test? This has been one reason that a lot of job positions have not been filled in the county.”

Education levels now come into question in regards to skill levels of would-be workers. A lack of education has a direct effect on the employment rate. Mills stated that this is another area they would like to concentrate on to get people the skills they need to get themselves a job. “The higher your education level, the easier it will be for a person to acquire a job,” Mills said. “With most of the available jobs in the county requiring a skill, it will be very essential for our children who are in or coming out of school to do their best to achieve the necessary education to give them an opportunity to get jobs.”

However, there has been some progress recently in decreasing the employment rate within the county. “We just recently found out that the people doing the scrapping at Georgia Pacific have hired 13 local people. We got five different companies who are now taking applications. Mississippi Granite has hired some people as well.”

Another boost to the unemployment has been the opportunities provided by tribal government in Neshoba County. “There is now a good, stable tribal government over in Neshoba,” Mills said. “We have a lot of people from Winston County who work for the tribe, be it the casino and other areas. With that stability, they will soon be looking to add more employment.”

Mills would like for people to know that there are places in the county that are hiring. Taylor Machine Works, Polo Customs, and the ECCC Vocational Center are some of the places that have positions available.

The future of the unemployment rate looks bright in Mills eye. “I look for our unemployment to go on down,” Mills said. “I think we got some things we will be able to announce fairly soon that will add 20 to 30 jobs at a time. We also have a few other job opportunities that we will try to bring to the county in the near future.”

If you have any questions regarding unemployment rates or job opportunities, you may visit the Mississippi Department of Employment Security website at www.mdes.ms.gov. For any questions regarding unemployment in the county, you may contact the Winston County Economic Development Partnership at 662-773-8719.