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The number of employed people in DeSoto County has returned to pre-lockdown levels, with about 87,000 employees reported in the county in new data released yesterday.

The jump in employed residents is a significant improvement from the nearly 82,000 people who had jobs in August.

“The numbers are great news,” John Gnuschke, professor of economics and senior researcher at the University of Memphis who studies the economy of the Greater Memphis area, said. “The bounce back has been very fast, and it just means that people are finding jobs.”

Though the number of employed people in the county has returned to January levels, the economy is not back to normal by every metric.

The unemployment rate for September — the most recent measure for the county — was 5.5%, which is higher than it has been in the last five years. Though the unemployment rate for DeSoto County has continued to fall since April, progress has slowed since May.

There were about 5,000 unemployed people in the county in September, according to the data. Like the unemployment rate, this number has continued to drop — with slowing progress — since April.

“The unemployment rate problem is still evident. Small businesses have been hit very, very hard,” Gnuschke said.

He said that though many people were unemployed because of pandemic difficulties for small businesses, they would eventually find other jobs.

“We should continue to see unemployment rates fall,” he said, adding that he believed that some normalcy — especially in terms of economic growth — will return to DeSoto County.

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The improvement in economic data comes at a time when a sharp increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases has been reported in the county, leading Tate Reeves to tighten restrictions on the county in a new mandate.

More than just DeSoto County, the state and nation also showed signs of economic growth in the release of labor statistics for September.

The unemployment rate for the entire state of Mississippi also showed improvement, falling from 7.8% in August to 7.1% in September. The national unemployment rate also fell last month, from 8.4% in August to 7.9% in September. The national GDP also showed significant improvement in the third quarter of 2020.

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