According to Montgomery County Economic Development Director Sue Stidham, the county saw its highest labor force numbers for the year in July with 4,210 people employed.
“The numbers held steady, and there was a labor force of 4,010 to 4,210 throughout last year,” Stidham said. She said in November, Montgomery County saw a labor force of 4,080 employed, but only 3,090 were actually employed.
“Some of them are seasonal workers. Those who are in school are seasonal and it (the numbers) varies throughout the year. Those who are in the agriculture business are seasonal and those numbers varies, so that’s why the numbers tend to fluctuate.”
Stidham said in November, 180 workers were unemployed in Montgomery County.
“They went to the job service seeking work but couldn’t find any.”
She said Montgomery County’s unemployment rate of 4.5 percent is consistent with its neighboring counties of Grenada, Webster and Choctaw. Grenada’s rate is 4.8, Webster’s is 4.1. and Choctaw’s is 4.2.
She said Carroll County has a rate of 4.7, and Attala County has a rate of 5.2. The highest unemployment rate in the state is Jefferson County, located in southwest Mississippi, which has a rate of 9.4. The lowest rate is Rankin County, with a rate of 3.1.
“Of course, there is a difference in population between Rankin and Montgomery, but for Montgomery to have a rate of 4.5 and the state’s highest rate is 9.4, the rate could be much higher. We would love to have a zero unemployment number, it would be ideal, but we’re not seeing it.”
Carroll County had 3,320 employed and had a labor force, 3,490.
“What their labor force is rather than employed number is very low. In November, 170 people were unemployed in Carroll County,” Stidham said.
Stidham said the biggest factor in both Montgomery and Carroll are that people are leaving to go find work elsewhere.
“During the 2009-2013 Census, there were 1,146 commuters coming into county to work, and there were 3,300 jobs in the county,” Stidham said.
She said during the same time period, 1,502 left Montgomery County to go to work.
In Carroll County, 2,557 leave Carroll to find work and 695 actually live and work in the county. Stidham said there were 308 people coming into Carroll to work.
She said a lot of people travel to Greenwood, Grenada, Eupora, Ackerman, and those in Carroll County travel to Winona, and those in Montgomery County travel to Vaiden to work at Anel and even to Nissan. The reason?
“Simply because of the better pay,” she said. “It’s also proximity to where we live. If you live in the western part of county, most people travel to Greenwood, because of higher paying jobs and even government jobs. And people on the eastern side of Montgomery go to Choctaw and Webster to work. Same thing with Grenada.”
“It depends on what your profession is, the type of job, what the pay is, and the proximity of where you live. If you live close to Eupora, it makes more sense to work in Eupora than to go to Winona,” Stidham said. “It depends on where you have to try to work. That happens throughout the state. It’s no different from any other state. And these numbers are the people who are employed, based on what employers report. We know there are people who have other means of income and not looking for jobs.”
She said it’s no different from any other county. But, Montgomery County has an advantage with the Sumner grant money.
“We have Holmes Community College on both ends (in Goodman and in Grenada) and people can further their education and get higher paying jobs, too,” she said.
She said she wishes Montgomery was able to provide its residents better paying jobs to offer citizens the best the county can.
“If we can’t then, don’t discourage someone or be upset if they look elsewhere for a job. We have to do what we have to do.”
Stidham said she would love to see more students seeking the vocational route to career, and more parents, teachers and community leaders directing and encouraging children to look into the vocational side.
“I know the vo-tech in Winona tries to increase its vocational program, adding when we can but it’s needed all over.”
She said plumbers, electricians, those who work on heating and air conditions, and handymen are hard to find, and people have to search out of the county to hire someone in those professions.
“If more people went into vocation type jobs, it could increase employment in county. That’s a strong set that we need to add.”
Stidham said the economic development office is working on the application for the ACT Work Ready program.
“We’re going to be implementing it in the county this year, and it’ll qualify more people to work. Some people in many cases that are willing to take test will qualify for higher jobs. The governor wants every county in Mississippi qualified (as an ACT Work Ready community.) We not only want to do our part by becoming ACT Work Ready for our citizens which will make jobs easier to come by. It’ll help with recruiting jobs. We’re more apt to be looked at if we are an ACT Work Ready community, which could mean new jobs.”