By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Sunday, August 16, 2016, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) announced that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted August unemployment rate has fallen to just 5.4 percent. The lowest rate of Gov. Bentley’s time in office. That is down from July’s rate of 5.7 percent and below August 2015’s rate of 6.1 percent.
Gov. Bentley said in a statement, “Lowering the unemployment rate and putting Alabamians back to work have been the major goals of my administration, and I’m proud to say that this month our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since I took office.”
Gov. Bentley said, “These last two months have been great for Alabama! Our unemployment rate has dropped six tenths of a percent since June. We’ve had a good jobs week in Alabama. There was a huge job fair in the Wiregrass region of the State, with record attendance. We also announced more than 100 jobs in Houston County. And in addition to marking the lowest unemployment rate of my administration, we can also say that we have the least number of unemployed Alabamians in more than eight years.”
August’s rate represents 116,361 unemployed persons, compared to 123,034 in July and 129,780 in August 2015. The last time the number of unemployed persons in Alabama was at or below 116,361 was May 2008, when the number measured 113,343.
Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said, “Not only did we see the unemployment rate drop, but we also saw the number of jobs our economy supports increase. Our total wage and salary employment is reaching levels that we haven’t seen in nearly eight years. Manufacturing employment is at its second highest level since 2009. These numbers show us that employers have jobs and are hiring Alabamians.”
Washington added, “The continued improvement reaches to the county level as well,” continued Washington. “Over the year, 66 of 67 counties experienced a drop in their unemployment rates, some counties by more than two percentage points.”
On Tuesday, September 13, both Gov. Bentley and Secretary Washington were at the Dothan Regional Job Fair. The job fair hosted more than 80 employers with more than 800 jobs available. The Governor joined Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz at the large job fair, the fifth one held in the State in 2016. Governor Bentley has emphasized increasing jobs and employment.
According to the US Department of Labor, over the year, wage and salary employment has increased by 15,600 people. The largest gains were in the manufacturing sector with +4,900. The education and health services sector picked up +4,200 while the trade, transportation and utilities sector grew by +3,400, among others.
Only Perry County has seen its unemployment rate rise over the last year, going from 10.5 percent to 10.9 percent.
The Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 4.2 percent, Elmore County at 4.7 percent, and Cullman County at 4.8 percent. The Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 13.8 percent, Clarke County at 11.1 percent, and Perry County at 10.9 percent.
The Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 3.7 percent, Homewood at 3.9 percent, and Hoover at 4.0 percent. The Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 10.2 percent, Prichard at 9.5 percent, and Bessemer at 8.9 percent.
When State Representative Robert Bentley (R-Tuscaloosa) was running for Governor, Alabama was in the throws of a Great Recession. Bentley vowed then not to take a salary until Alabama was at full employment. Most economists consider anything below 5.5 percent as full employment. This is the first month of the 64 that Bentley has served as Governor where we have achieved “full employment” by that definition.
Alabama still has a lot of people who are underemployed, who are working part time when they would rather be full time and one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the country. So, there is still a lot of room to improve household incomes without running out of workers.