Business

Positive signs as Coast economy faces challenges

A job fair will be held at Harrah’s Gulf Coast Casino in Biloxi from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 27 for experienced dealers and supervisors to work at Harrah’s in New Orleans.
A job fair will be held at Harrah’s Gulf Coast Casino in Biloxi from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 27 for experienced dealers and supervisors to work at Harrah’s in New Orleans. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

Unemployment rose in all three Coast counties in May as students got out of high school and college and began looking for jobs.

The report shows 9,040 people were unemployed in South Mississippi in May, or 1,670 more than in April. Rankin County posted the lowest unemployment in the state for May at 3.9 percent and Issaquena County the highest at 12.8 percent.

The report released Wednesday by Mississippi Department of Employment Security follows a week of economic reports that show South Mississippi’s economy continues to have challenges.

▪  Coast casino revenue fell 7 percent in May after increasing in March and April and is down 2 percent this year.

▪  Lower wages — In May 2016, the average hourly wage in the Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula Statistical Area was $20.16, or $3.70 an hour lower than the nationwide average of $23.86. Those in production, such as shipbuilding, on the Coast made 30 percent more than the national average.

But these economic indicators were positive:

▪  Sales Tax — Biloxi’s sales tax diversion was the highlight of the May report, rising by $80,000 over a year ago. Tax revenue was down in half the Coast cities but overall was $16,600 higher across the Coast than a year ago. Sales tax diversions to Coast cities year to date are up slightly, totaling $26.3 million for the first five months compared to $26.1 million in 2016.

▪  Home sales — Home sales prices are $32,000 higher than five years ago in South Mississippi. The average sales priced dropped by $1,000 in May compared to a year ago, but the number sold last month increased by 101.

▪  Gas prices — The cost of a gallon of gas on Monday was $2.02 in South Mississippi, the lowest level of the year and 27 cents below the national average.

Unemployment

County

May 2017

April 2017

May 2016

Hancock

5.7

4.7

6.2

Harrison

5.1

4.1

5.8

Jackson

5.9

5.0

6.6

Source: Mississippi Department of Employment Security

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