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More than 200,000 Mississippians filed for unemployment since mid-March



(Image from Mississippi Department of Employment Security)

Unemployment began to rise in mid-March across the nation as states began putting restrictions into place to control the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve so as not to overburden an already stressed health-care system.

Like most areas of the country, Mississippi started to ask government agencies and businesses to send home non-essential employees around that time. Gov. Tate Reeves signed his first executive order to that effect on March 17.

Since that time, beginning with the week ending March 21, Mississippi began seeing a steep climb in new unemployment claims. Through the week ending April 25, more than 200,000 Mississippians have filed new unemployment claims. That figure is on top of the nearly 67,500 Mississippians already unemployed in March.

Week ending New claims
3/21/2020 5,519
3/28/2020 32,015
4/4/2020 45,852
4/11/2020 45,748
4/18/2020 36,913
4/25/2020 35,843*
Total 201,890

For the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, an agency accustomed to fewer than 1,000 new claims a month, it meant dramatically increasing and training new staff while also increasing its hours of operation. Regardless, the complaints about hours-long hold times and other issues haven’t stopped, and Gov. Reeves continues to promise improvement.

Across the nation, 3.8 million people filed new unemployment claims during the week ending April 25, bringing the total number of new claims during the crisis to more than 30 million. The weekly figures were down by about 600,000 from the previous week; however, the four-week moving average is more than 5 million new claims per week.

“The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 12.4% for the week ending April 18, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from the previous week’s revised rate,” the Department of Labor stated in its April 30 release. “This marks the highest level of the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate in the history of the seasonally adjusted series.”

More than 22% of the American labor force is out of work, according to Forbes, or about 10% of all Americans.

“For perspective, jobless claims over the past six weeks are more than five times the worst stretch of the Great Recession” of 2008 and 2009, wrote Barron’s, adding, “Job losses of this magnitude translate to an unemployment rate of about 25%.

During the Great Depression, some 15 million Americans, about 25% of the nation’s work force then, were unemployed in 1933.

Unlike either of those events, with the COVID-19 crisis, the federal government almost immediately began to pump money into the economy when it was clear there would be massive unemployment. It made loans available to businesses to keep paying their employees and fattened benefits for those out of work. Now, part-time workers, the self-employed and gig workers are eligible for benefits, something that has never happened.

That spending, and the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented intervention into the economy, has kept the stock market from bottoming out. After a dramatic drop from mid-February through late March, the market regained about half its ground in April on hopeful news including that some states were ready to re-open for business and that an antiviral, remdesivir, was showing promise as a treatment for COVID-19.


City says gas smell poses no danger



(Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay)

Numerous Vicksburg residents have reported a strong odor similar to natural gas in the city.

City officials say the smell is apparently due to a release on the harbor, and that it poses no danger.

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Update on the woman connected to high speed chase and crash



The end of the chase. (Photo by David Day)

The high speed chase and crash that began at the Waffle House on Pemberton Square Boulevard in Vicksburg Saturday night originated with a domestic dispute.

The driver of the rented Nissan Rogue that eventually crashed and burned, Bonjara O’Quin, and his unnamed passenger were arguing for some time on Saturday.

One Vicksburg Daily News reader said they noticed them on the Natchez Trace earlier in the day. O’Quin was walking down the road and the female was driving slowly next to him trying to convince him to get back in the SUV. His distinctive pink shoes are what made our reader link the couple to this story.

Later in the day, the couple’s disagreement escalated, and a caller to 911 described a “rolling disturbance” in a blue SUV with Illinois plates near the Waffle House on Pemberton. Officer Michael Battle went to that scene but didn’t see the suspect vehicle. Shortly thereafter another call came into the 911 call center that the vehicle fitting that description was involved in a physical altercation at the Shell located at 4747 U.S. Highway 61 South. The man in the SUV was pulling a pregnant female from the vehicle by her hair.

The Shell Food Mart, 4747 U.S. 61 South. (photo by David Day)

Officer Battle drove to the scene with his lights and siren on, and O’Quin fled south on U.S 61. Battle immediately reported the blue SUV was not responding to his blue lights and siren and was accelerating away from the marked unit. Battle radioed the chase in and the channel was cleared of other traffic so Battle could report at will. The Mississippi Highway Patrol was notified and several units responded. As the chase continued south with speeds in excess of 100 mph, the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the call.

O’Quin lost control of the vehicle as he attempted to turn west onto Shiloh Road just inside Claiborne County resulting in a fiery wreck. He received minor injuries and was treated and released to police custody.

U.S. Highway 61 South where it meets Shiloh Road in Claiborne County.

The unidentified female was treated by a Vicksburg Fire/Medic unit and refused further medical care or transportation to Merit Health River Region.

Bonjara O’Quin and an unidentified law enforcement officer. (Photo by David Day)

O’Quin has been charged with domestic violence and felony elude.

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Mississippi Boy Choir’s annual Christmas Concert will be online Friday



(photo from MBC Facebook page)

The Mississippi Boy Choir will present its annual Christmas Concert virtually this year, meaning everyone can enjoy the choir for free.

The concert is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the choir’s website from the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson, Mississippi.

2020 marks the 26th season for the choir, which stems from a 1,500-year-old tradition of boys singing in the great cathedrals of Western Europe. The organization has two choirs: a training choir that consists of young boys in second grade up whose voices have not changed, and a concert choir with both changed and unchanged voices. The concert choir generally consists of boys from the fifth through the 12th grade.

The Vicksburg branch of the Mississippi Boy Choir meets on Mondays at the Church of the Holy Trinity on South Street.

Friday’s performance is funded by the Mississippi Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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