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Miss. jobless rate up to 9.2 percent in September

JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi's unemployment rate ticked up to 9.2 percent in September, but there was positive news to offset that gloomy headline.

The unemployment survey showed people with jobs in the state rose slightly in September, but that improvement was offset by more people entering the labor force. The number of payroll jobs recorded in a separate survey rose a little after four months of declines.

Mississippi had a 9.1 percent jobless rate in August and a 10.9 percent rate in September 2011, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures adjusted to cancel out predictable seasonal fluctuations.

The number of unemployed people rose to about 123,000 in September, up less than 1,000 from August. In September 2011, 146,000 Mississippians were unemployed.

The unemployment rate is calculated by a survey that asks how many people are looking for a job. A second survey each month asks employers how many people are on their payrolls, a measure many economists use as their top labor market indicator.

That survey found total Mississippi payrolls rose to 1.09 million in September, up 3,200 jobs from August. The increase puts Mississippi slightly ahead of the post-recession payroll low of October 2009. But the totals are still 7,000 below September 2011 levels, and Mississippi is still 75,000 jobs below its pre-recession high. It's also one of only seven states to lose payroll jobs over the last 12 months.

Among business sectors where payrolls increased in Mississippi in September were trade, transportation and utilities; education and health services; construction; financial activities and government. Jobs fell in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and manufacturing.

Mississippi recorded the seventh-highest unemployment rate among the states. Overall, unemployment rates fell in 41 states, rose in six and were flat in three. Nevada retained the highest unemployment rate at 11.8 percent, and North Dakota kept the lowest at 3 percent.

The national unemployment rate dipped to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August. It remained below the 9 percent level of September 2011.

The broadest measure of those who are unemployed averaged 15.4 percent in Mississippi over the 12 months ending June 30, the most recent figures available. That number includes people who are looking for work only sporadically, have given up looking or are working part time because they can't find a full-time job.

Nationwide, that broad measure averaged 15.3 percent during the same time.

County-level unemployment numbers will be released later.