Unemployed Mississippians wishing for a job this holiday season

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – Instead of standing in line to buy gifts for his family this Christmas, Bryan Washington has ended up on the unemployment line.

"I have nothing to give them but a 'Merry Christmas' and quality time is basically all you can give them," said Washington.

The 22 year old Biloxi man lost his job with BP in August.

"You can't do a lot of things that you want to do because you don't have any money," said Washington. "It causes frustration. But I'm not going to give up on it. I'm going to keep trying."

On Monday morning, he came to the Win Job Center in Biloxi to look for opportunities in the nursing field.  At least a dozen people also showed up, hoping to find a job.

"We do see a lot of people coming in," said Robert Freeman, Branch Director for Biloxi's Win Job Center. "They're really seeking all types, full time, part time. It runs the gamut. So we do have people searching for that seasonal help."

Freeman said there was a spike in the number of applicants following the BP oil spill.  But the traffic this holiday season is about the same as last year.

"So I think we're still feeling the effects of the economy and the recession. Hopefully, we'll pick and up start seeing more jobs and openings," said Freeman.

Jerry Murrell is optimistic the new year will mean a new job.  He was laid-off in October of 2009.

"I haven't found any work," said Murrell. "I looked for a long time, I didn't find any. That's pretty difficult."

At the age of 58, Murrell is considering going to college in January to learn some computer skills.  In the meantime, he is grateful for the extension of his unemployment benefits.

According to the state Department of Employment Security, about 54,000 Mississippians are currently receiving unemployment benefits. Of that number, 6,300 are eligible for the emergency benefits.

"It'll help me pay the bills, get around and look for a job. I won't be in such a bind," said Murrell.

According to the January 2011 issue of the Mississippi Economic Review and Outlook report released Monday by the State College Board, jobs dropped more in the construction industry than any other sector.

The report also stated that the highest job growth in the coming years will be in business and professional services, like marketing, accounting and the computer field.  And the unemployment rate in Mississippi is not expected to drop below nine-percent until 2014.

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