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Mississippi jobless rate dips as fewer seek work

Jeff Amy, Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi's unemployment rate dipped in April, but mainly because fewer people were looking for work.

However, a separate survey of employer payrolls continued to rise, suggesting Mississippi's slow climb out of recession continues.

Both sets of figures were released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The jobless rate fell to 9.1 percent from 9.4 percent in March. Mississippi continued to have the third-highest unemployment rate among states.

A 5,000-person decrease in the labor force was the main factor cutting Mississippi's jobless rate. The state reported almost 121,000 unemployed people in April, down from 125,000 in March, and level with the 120,000 from April 2012.

Nevada had the highest jobless rate among the states in March at 9.6 percent, while Illinois was second at 9.3 percent. North Dakota again had the lowest rate at 3.3 percent.

The national unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent in April from 7.6 percent in March. It was also below the 8.1 percent level of April 2012.

The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure many economists use as their top labor market indicator.

Mississippi payrolls rose by 3,000 from March to 1.12 million in April. That's 17,000 above April 2012 levels. The gain slightly narrowed the distance back to the pre-recession payroll peak, but Mississippi remains 3.7 percent or nearly 43,000 jobs short of its all-time peak.

The state's construction sector increased payrolls by more than 3 percent in April. Also adding workers were trade, transportation and utilities; education and health services; leisure and hospitality and government.

Mississippi's professional and business services sector, which has grown rapidly in the last year, shed nearly 2 percent of its employees in April. Also dropping were manufacturing and financial activities.

The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 15.5 percent in Mississippi during the 12 months ended March 30, the most recent figures available. That number includes people who are looking for work only sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can't find a full-time job.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 14.5 percent during the same time.

Mississippi's economic pain has been unevenly spread. A report released by the Economic Policy Institute that 5.4 percent of white Mississippi workers were unemployed in the last three months of 2012, compared to 6.3 percent of white workers nationwide. But 14.3 of black Mississippi workers were unemployed, compared to 14 percent nationwide.

"For much of the last five years, African American unemployment rates have been at least double— and sometimes more than triple — white unemployment rates," Mary Gable wrote for the institute.

County-level rates will be released later.


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