The Jackson County jobless figure stopped just short of double-digits in December as unemployment hit 9.9 percent.

The Jackson County jobless figure stopped just short of double-digits in December as unemployment hit 9.9 percent.

The county's payroll count fell by 950 in December as industrial layoffs, a slow holiday retail season and even governmental employment receded. Employment Department figures show there were 1,640 fewer payroll jobs — a decline of 1.9 percent — in December than the final month of 2007.

While the jobless rate was a relatively small jump from November's 8.7 percent figure, it stands in stark contrast to the 5.9 percent mark in December 2007.

Construction employment dropped by 210, underscoring year-long losses totaling 600 jobs in the field. Regional Economist Guy Tauer attributed the declines to the dearth of new housing starts. He said preliminary residential building permits in Jackson County have dipped to a level not seen since about 1984 — when high interest rates hindered new construction.

Manufacturing employment fell by 100 in December and has fallen by 510 jobs in the past year. With more layoffs in the lumber and wood products industry recently announced, Tauer anticipated more job losses when January's data are reported next month.

Retail trade shed 240 jobs as the seasonal hiring ramp up for the holiday season started to wind down. With Linens 'n Things and other retailers closing, retail trade employment ended the year down 400 jobs.

Government employment dropped by 250 jobs in December.

— Greg Stiles