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Unemployment benefits expand

Mississippi residents unable to work due to COVID-19 are eligible for unemployment benefits.

To file an unemployment claim, visit mdes.ms.gov or call the Mississippi Department of Employment Security at 1-888-844-3577. Claims can be filed online any time or the contact center can be reached by phone from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Some normal unemployment requirements are being waived due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

People who receive unemployment benefits are not required to wait a week before they can receive benefits for claims that are initially filed from March 8 to June 27. Normally people have to make contact with at least three employers and fill out applications for at least one job to remain eligible for benefits. That requirement is suspended from March 21 until June 27.

Those eligible for unemployment benefits include people who are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency due to COVID-19, people diagnosed with COVID-19, people laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period due to COVID-19 concerns and those caring for an immediate family member with a COVID-19 diagnosis. People who are being required to work part time instead of their regular full time hours may be eligible for partial unemployment.

Questions about filing for unemployment due to COVID-19 can be directed to MDES at CV19@mdes.ms.gov.

To file for unemployment, register with MDES online, through a WIN Job Center or by phone. Registration requires a social security number or alien registration or Visa number for workers who are not U.S. citizens, names, addresses and phone numbers for employers from the last eighteen months, mailing address and phone number, and dates worked and reason leaving each employer. The WIN Job Center in Pearl River County can be reached at 601-798-3472.

Pearl River County’s unemployment rate was slightly lower than the statewide-unadjusted average during the month of February of this year. During that month, Pearl River County’s rate tied with three other counties for 13th in the state, reporting a percentage of 4.8. The statewide unadjusted average was 5.4 percent.

Unemployment numbers are expected to climb exponentially nationwide under the current COVID-19 pandemic. During a press conference held by Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves Tuesday morning, he said that projections estimate the unemployment rate will jump by 550 percent as a result of the pandemic.

According to information released by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security on Tuesday, Pearl River County’s revised unemployment rate for January was 4.9 percent. In February of 2019, the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in the county.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in February was 5.4 percent, slightly more than January’s revised rate of 5.5 percent.

In February of 2019, Mississippi’s adjusted unemployment rate was 5.2 percent.

Nationwide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in February was 3.5 percent, the a decrease from the previous month’s rate of 3.6.

In February of last year, the nationwide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.8 percent.

During the month of February, 26 of Mississippi’s 82 counties reported unemployment rates at or below the statewide-unadjusted average of 5.1 percent.

Lafayette and Rankin counties reported the lowest unemployment rate during February with 3.8 percent with Lamar County, Madison County and Union County close behind with a rate of 4 percent.

Jefferson County reported the highest rate, at 13.7 percent, with Humphreys County reporting a rate of 11.5 percent.