Mississippi has continued its mostly steady bounce back from the economic lows caused by the pandemic, but the latest federal employment report showed the state lost 7,000 jobs from January through February. 

The new data came as a surprise to state economist Corey Miller, who said Mississippi had largely been adding jobs since the immediate downturn from the pandemic. 

Miller said a likely factor in the drop was severe winter storms that hit the state in mid-February. The storms not only caused power outages, but had residents and businesses in parts of Jackson without running water for a month. 

“I tend to think that’s going to turn around in the next few months,” Miller said, referring to the job losses.  “The outlook for our economy is pretty optimistic for the state and for the nation.” 

The state’s unemployment rate for February was 6.3%, down .1 % from its rate the month before, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. The department’s chief labor market director, Mary Willoughby, said since the height of the pandemic in April the state has showed consistent economic improvement.

At the pandemic’s peak, Mississippi’s rate of unemployment neared 16%. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the state’s unemployment rate hovered around 5.5%. 

The state had also lost 2,700 jobs in January. But before the recent drops, Miller said the state had recovered about 75% of the losses caused by the COVID-19 shutdowns.

About half the recent losses came from the hospitality industry and food services, which have been hurt the most nationwide in the fallout of the pandemic. 

“All things considered we have held up pretty well,” Miller said. “The reason is the speed at which the state reopened and another part of it is that we don’t have as much of our economy in service sectors as other states.” 

Mississippi has added 104,200 jobs since the lows of April 2020, according to its February report. The state’s unemployment rate has also decreased every month since April 2020.