Unemployment stats sign of progress

Published 7:00 am Friday, August 28, 2015

We’re happy to report that our county’s next fiscal year budget is going to look similar to this year’s, with the addition of funding animal control services.

While it’s true we would prefer to report that greater tax revenues have led to more county revenue and bigger budgets for roads, the library system and other basic needs, it’s great that we’ve been able to avoid budget cuts and it’s good news we’re able to fund animal control.

The city of Picayune, too, is fiscally sound and we were pleased to report that city employees should expect cost-of-living and performance-based raises.

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These sound budgets reflect a solid local economy, good employment numbers and a solid tax base.

It’s good to see the positive media coverage on the recovery of our and our surrounding areas 10 years after Katrina, but as we all know, Mississippi has suffered since then and the economic collapse of 2008 hit home here, too. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security tracks unemployment numbers across counties, month by month, and for July, the most recent month available, Pearl River County’s unemployment rate was 6.1 percent. In April, it was 5.2 percent. Compare these numbers to the national rate of 5.3 percent, and the statewide number of 6.6 percent, and we’re doing pretty well. Meanwhile, some counties in Mississippi are reporting double digits.

What this means is, the country at large and Pearl River County in particular are basically at full employment. Economists tell us that no economy will ever hit 0 percent unemployment, and 4 to 6 percent unemployment is about what functionally full employment looks like.

It is worth remembering that things were not always so good here. In 2009, a year after the recession began, joblessness in Pearl River County was over 9 percent for half the year, with some months going above 10 percent. Of course, the worst joblessness in the last decade was reported in September of 2005, wherein Pearl River County reported 19.9 percent unemployment.

As we look back to the destruction of a decade ago, we will necessarily compare our losses then with our progress now. We will do well to remember progress is measured by more than rebuilt homes and new bridges. Ideal progress is measured is continual economic growth and as our recent budget hearings show us, we’re on the right track.