Mississippi's unemployment rate dipped in June, but employer payrolls fell, as the state's job market sent mixed messages.
The jobless rate fell to 6.6 percent, down from 6.7 percent in May and 7.6 percent in June 2014. A months-long pattern of decreasing unemployment resumed, after May's rate jobless rose slightly.
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Despite the improvement, Mississippi remained tied for the third-highest jobless rate among states.
The state's labor force continued the expansion that began in January, but even more people told surveyors they had jobs in June. That pushed down the number of unemployed Mississippians to 83,000, down slightly from May and 11,000 below May 2014.
Nationally, economists have said that a growing labor force is a sign of a strengthening recovery, as people who gave up looking for work come off the sidelines as job opportunities improve.
The figures — adjusted to cancel out seasonal changes — were released Tuesday by the U.S. Labor Department. Unemployment rates fell in 21 states in June, rose in 12, and were flat in 17. West Virginia, at 7.4 percent, had the highest unemployment rate among the states. Nebraska had the lowest, at 2.6 percent.
The national unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in June from 5.5 percent in May. It was down from 6.1 percent a year ago.
The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey asking how many people are looking for a job. A second survey asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure many economists use as their top labor market indicator.
Mississippi payrolls fell by 1,000 in June, as job gains reported by employers have been weaker than those reported by workers. Payrolls in June were about 11,000 higher than a year before, but Mississippi has 3.4 percent fewer payroll employees now compared with its all-time high in February 2008.
The biggest drop among eight major economic sectors came in leisure and hospitality, which in June shed more than 3,000 workers, or 2.5 percent of employment. Construction employment also declined. Payrolls rose in trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; education and health services; government and manufacturing. Payrolls were flat in financial activities.
The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 13.4 percent in Mississippi for the year ending in March, the most recent figures released. That includes people who look for work only sporadically, who have given up looking, or who work part time because they can't find a full-time job.
Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 11.6 percent during the same period.
Online: State employment report: http://1.usa.gov/104hKGL
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