By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, August 19, 2016, according to the latest numbers from the US Department of Labor, Alabama’s unemployment rate is the lowest that it has been in eight years.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted July unemployment rate is 5.7 percent. A big drop from June’s rate of 6.0 percent and well below July 2015’s rate of 6.1 percent. The July rate represents 123,095 unemployed persons, compared to 130,298 in June and 130,098 in July 2015.
Gov. Bentley said, “We continue to see decreases in Alabama’s unemployment rate, and increases in both of our employment measures over the year, which is a testament to the strong economic development efforts we have prioritized. We haven’t seen an unemployment rate this low in eight years. Not only did the rate decrease since last month, there are also nearly 28,000 more people working this year than there were last year.”
In July 2016, 2,039,029 Alabamians were officially counted as employed, up from 2,011,438 in July 2015.
Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said, “July registered the fewest number of unemployed people since 2008 and the good news also trickled down to the counties this month as well. Every county in Alabama saw its rate decrease over the month, and 66 of 67 counties saw their rates decrease over the year, some by more than two percentage points. This is excellent news.”
The last time the number of unemployed was at or below 123,095 was in June 2008, when the number of unemployed persons measured only 118,828.
The largest gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector which gained over 3,300 new positions, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector which gained over 3,200, financials which added over 3,100 jobs, and manufacturing which added over 3,000.
The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 4.2 percent, Elmore County at 4.7 percent, and Baldwin County at 4.8 percent. Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 14.3 percent, Perry County at 12.1 percent, and Clarke County at 11.4 percent.
The major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 3.4 percent, Homewood at 3.9 percent, and Hoover at 4.0 percent. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 11.4 percent, Prichard at 10.2 percent, and Bessemer at 9.0 percent.
The establishment survey is conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a division of the US Department of Labor, surveys employers to measure how many jobs are in the economy.
Governor Bentley promised when elected that he would not take a salary until the state reached full employment (most economists consider full employment to be about 5.5 percent). July’s 5.7 percent is the lowest unemployment rate of Gov. Bentley’s 78 months in office and edged the state very close to statistical full employment.
There are still however a large number of workers who are underemployed and/or working part time jobs and the State has the third lowest labor force participation rate in the country.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics only 53.3 percent of the population of Alabama 16 years or older either have a job or were looking for a job in July. Only Mississippi at 52.2 percent and West Virginia at 49.8 percent are worse. The national average is 62.8 percent.
How to get young people who have never had a job or people who lost their job in the Great Recession and have stopped looking for work to enter the labor force is perhaps an even more difficult task for state government than finding jobs for those Alabamians who are unemployed but are looking for work.