Hattiesburg metro area unemployment rate approaching pre-pandemic level

Hattiesburg area unemployment rate approaching pre-pandemic level

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - It’s been 11 months since unemployment rates skyrocketed in the Hattiesburg Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Now, officials say the latest numbers reveal the unemployment rate sits closer to the rate it was prior to COVID-19.

“What is most exciting is that we ended out 2020 with an unemployment rate that is down back to around 5.2%,” said Todd Jackson, executive vice president of the Hattiesburg Area Development Partnership.

Though it’s not as low as the 4.2% rate the area saw pre-pandemic, it’s better than it was in April of 2020.

“During the pandemic, the local economy did see up to 12.7% unemployment rate,” Jackson said.

Jackson credits the drop to businesses learning to adapt.

“The recovery has a lot to do with all of us figuring out how to operate in that new normal,” Jackson said. “So there were a lot of employers that were figuring out how to deal with capacity restraints in their businesses, social distancing in their workplaces while also meeting the needs of their customer.”

There’s one business sector officials say was hit the hardest by unemployment.

“We saw the largest unemployment spike in our retail trade sector,” Jackson said. “Retail trade covers everything from the normal shopping that we’re all used to and restaurants and food industry.”

Moving forward, Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker says the area needs to diversify employment in the economy.

“The more that we can grow manufacturing, the more that we can grow distribution, the more that we can grow more corporate headquarters, those are going to be things that really insulate us when there are economic down turns,” Barker said.

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