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Unemployment numbers aren’t telling the whole story

The numbers tell a good news story: Mississippi’s jobless rate set a new all-time low in January.

Mississippi’s jobless rate fell to 4.6 percent, the lowest reported since surveys began in 1976 and almost a full percentage point better than one year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That’s good news for a state that has faced a sluggish economy for too long after the latest recession ended in 2009. But the low numbers don’t tell the full story, and that’s why many areas of the state don’t reflect this low unemployment rate.

As types of jobs available have shifted in the past decade some people have stopped looking for jobs. Therefore, the long-term unemployed don’t show up in unemployment statistics.

Still, progress is progress and it’s better to see Mississippi reporting its all-time lowest unemployment rate rather than the opposite. More people have jobs — there’s no denying that — and that’s a good thing.

We’re at least seeing progress for the first time after the recession.

The healthy future of Mississippi will rely upon further wage growth and jobs diversification to lure those who are able to work but aren’t back to the workplace