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Mississippi sees above average unemployment rate for May



Last week’s news that the nation’s unemployment rate for May had dropped to 13.3% was widely hailed as great news for an economy pushed to the brink by COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions.

Most economists were predicting a rise closer to 20% from April’s dismal 14.7%. Unexpectedly, more than 2.5 million jobs were created in May as states began loosening restrictions on businesses.

Of course, 13.3% unemployment is not much to celebrate: 21 million Americans were still out of work at the end of May, a number that seems unbelievable in comparison to the beginning of the year when unemployment was at a record low of 3.6%. The figures also reflect that two-fifths of those who found work in May were working part time although they preferred full time jobs.

For the week ending June 6, another 1.54 million Americans—which included more than 21,000 Mississippians—filed new unemployment claims.

Mississippi’s unemployment rate, as it did before the pandemic, lags the nation. For the week ending May 30, the state’s unemployment rate was 15.75%, higher than the national figure by about 2.5 percentage points.

New unemployment claims averaged more than 23,000 a week for the last four weeks, although a significant drop of 3,000 new claims occurred between May 30 and June 6.

In the 13 weeks since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Mississippi, more than 338,000 people have filed for unemployment. About 45% of those people have gone on to file continued claims.

Mississippi began reporting numbers of people receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, for the week ending June 6. PUA is offered through the federal government to people not eligible for state unemployment programs, including those who are self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers, among others. Mississippi announced the program April 21 but did not report claim numbers until last week.

For the week ending May 23, continued claims under the PUA program totaled 55,413 workers who are not counted in the state’s “official” unemployment tally.

Week ending New claims Continued Claims PUA PUA continued claims
3/14/2020 1,147         7,098
3/21/2020 5,519         6,667
3/28/2020 32,015         9,581
4/4/2020 45,852       29,373
4/11/2020 45,748       60,737
4/18/2020 36,913       93,005
4/25/2020 29,906 135,722 ?
5/2/2020 25,745 208,270 ? ?
5/9/2020 23,618 189,886 ? ?
5/16/2020 24,242 184,150 ? 59,060
5/23/2020 23,856 174,808 ? 55,413
5/30/2020 24,014 151,747 10,784
6/6/2020 21,021 8,403
Total 338,449 19,187


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