By JEFF AMY
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) â¿¿ Mississippi's unemployment rate ticked up to 8.6 percent in December from 8.5 percent in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.
Despite the one-month rise, the state's jobless rate still decreased the third-most among states in 2012, in percentage point terms. Only Nevada and Florida fell more than Mississippi's drop of 1.8 percentage points from a 10.4 percent jobless rate in December.
The unemployment rate rose because the state's labor force increased faster than people found jobs. Mississippi reported 115,000 unemployed people in December, up from 113,000 in November, but down from 141,000 in December 2011.
But that fall in the jobless rate has come in part because Mississippians are retiring or giving up the job search. Analysts say Mississippi has resumed growing, but only slowly, after the economy stalled in the summer.
The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. The sluggishness shows up more clearly in a second survey, which each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls.
That survey, which many economists use as their top labor market indicator, found Mississippi payrolls fell to 1.09 million in December. That's down about 2,000 jobs from November when adjusted to cancel out seasonal differences, and ended three straight months of payroll gains.
Mississippi did manage to finish the year above the December 2011 payroll level by more than 3,000 jobs, but that was only a 0.3 percent increase. The state is still 69,000 jobs short of its pre-recession high.
"This is a remarkably weak labor market," state economist Darren Webb told lawmakers Thursday. He and other College Board economists predict total job growth of 1.1 percent this year.
Among business sectors where payrolls fell in Mississippi in December were trade, transportation and utilities; leisure and hospitality; construction; manufacturing and government. The professional and business service sector posted a healthy gain, though, and also rising were education and health services and financial activities.