The numbers do not make sense.
Gulfport and Biloxi, Miss., reported an average unemployment rate of 15.6 percent at the start of February. A year ago the communities were at 5.9 percent. The difference is the result of work lost in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, according to state officials.
But manufacturers that are up and running there say they cannot find enough people to fill their open jobs.
At United States Marine Inc. in Gulfport, President Barry Dreyfus Jr. said he is retaining less than 20 percent of new hires as he works to fill jobs for his military boat manufacturing business.
In nearby Long Beach, Oreck Manufacturing Co. has launched a special series of meetings on worker retention, focusing on how to attract and keep employees.
While Oreck kept nearly all of its skilled workers following the Aug. 29 storm, it still lost an estimated 20 percent of its unskilled laborers, said Mike Ross, director of molding operations.
The same is true in the New Orleans suburb of Harahan, La., where injection molder Intralox LLC has hired 230 people since September. More than 100 of those people did not stick around, though, some never returning after their first day.
The best guess Ross and others have is that some people are taking advantage of extended unemployment benefits or devoting their time solely to repairing their damaged houses.
As a result, the competition for those people willing and able to work has been fierce - and manufacturers are not the only ones in the game.
Restaurants and stores have been offering top wages and struggling to stay open as well. Places in the region that have managed to remain open typically are operating at reduced hours, unable to find enough people to staff night or weekend shifts.
In New Orleans, many grocery stores close by 6 p.m., noted David Lowry, production manager for Intralox.
``You can't just decide to run out to a restaurant for dinner,'' he said. ``You've got to plan everything.''
Some fast-food chains have taken to offering hiring bonuses to new workers, noted Bob DePerro, vice president of First American Plastic Molding Enterprise in Ocean Springs, Miss.
``We're competing with McDonald's and Burger King for people - and they're winning,'' Ross said.
In the new post-Katrina hiring world, the rules have had to change. If someone comes in looking for work at Intralox, the company will put him to work right away, said plant manager Paul Horton. If they hand him an application and tell him to come back the next day, Intralox will lose that person to the shop down the street.
Company operators maintain they would prefer a standard hiring practice, complete with pre-screening, background checks and drug tests. But that simply is not feasible.
And businesses do everything they can to help keep the employees they already have. Companies with little or no damage from Katrina provided food, water and even housing in some cases. They have had to allow a flexible schedule for workers who need time off to meet with contractors or insurance inspectors, Ross said.
Dreyfus, who moved USMI from New Orleans to Gulfport in the wake of the storm, was able to keep 75 percent of his 128 employees. And as the company struggles to bring in people to fill vacancies, he said he tries to keep a positive attitude.
``If all I get out of them is one day's work pushing papers around, well then at least I got one day's work,'' he said.