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State unemployment down to 3.8 percent

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Friday, October 20, 2017 Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally-adjusted September unemployment rate is down to 3.8 percent, a big drop from August’s rate of 4.2 percent and well below the September 2016 rate of 6.0 percent. The last time Alabama’s unemployment rate was this low was in April 2007, when it also measured 3.8 percent; this is the lowest rate in recorded history.

“We’ve been working extremely hard over the past six months to bring Alabama’s unemployment rate down, and today’s news shows that our efforts are paying off,” Ivey said. “This is truly a historic day, as we announce that Alabama’s unemployment rate is the lowest it has ever been. When it comes to job creation, we are doing the right thing and momentum is on our side in Alabama. But, we won’t let up and we will continue recruiting new businesses and encouraging existing firms to expand. We can’t and won’t slow down just because we’ve reached this milestone.”

In September, 2,068,594 people were counted as employed, up from 2,057,360 in August and 2,045,762 a year ago in September 2016. September’s rate represents just 82,678 unemployed persons, compared to 90,756 in August and 131,201 at this time last year.

“Nearly 23,000 more people are working now than last year and the number of unemployed is down by almost 50,000,” Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said. “Those numbers represent real workers, with real families, and indicate real progress in our economy.  Alabama’s employers continue to add jobs, supporting more than 2,011,000 positions this month, beating yearly job growth projections by 28,400 only nine months into the year. We remain hopeful that this wonderful progress continues throughout the rest of the year.”

“Alabama’s unemployment rate is now the lowest ever in our state’s history,” state Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, said. “At 3.8 percent this shows we are moving in the right direction. Growing the economy and removing governmental roadblocks for businesses should always be a top priority. This is great news for all Alabamians!”

Butler is running for state Senate in 2018.

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Wage and salary employment increased in September by 7,100. The largest monthly gains were seen in the government sector (+5,900), the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+2,800) and the construction sector (+1,200), among others. Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 28,400, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+7,400), the professional and business services sector (+6,600), and the construction sector (+6,300), among others.

“All 67 counties experienced drops in their unemployment rates, both over the year and over the month, and for the first time in a decade, no county has a rate in the double digits,” said Washington.

The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at an incredibly low 2.4 percent, Marshall and Cullman Counties at 2.8 percent, and Madison, Lee and Elmore Counties at 2.9 percent. The counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 8.9 percent, Clarke County at 6.7 percent and Dallas County at 6.3 percent.

The major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 2.2 percent, Alabaster and Homewood at 2.3 percent, and Hoover at 2.4 percent. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 7.0 percent, Prichard at 6.4 percent and Bessemer at 4.7 percent.

The establishment survey is conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor.  It surveys employers to measure how many jobs are in the economy. This is also referred to as wage and salary employment.

Anything under 5 percent is generally considered full employment by classical economists. The spectacular economic conditions, it is hoped, will lure some people who left the labor force after the Great Recession to rejoin the work force. Similarly, many people who had to accept part-time employment due to the scarcity of jobs, are encouraged to take this opportunity to seek full-time employment. Those moves, with the prospect of rising wages due to competition among employers for available workers, has potential to increase average household income … something that has lagged in recent years. Skilled tradesmen like plumbers, heating and cooling installers, welders, nurses and CDL license truck drivers are especially sought after.

Gov. Ivey said that Alabama is in danger of losing a congressional district in the reapportionment after the 2020 census due to stagnation. The improving job market could lure some people to move to the state, perhaps enough to prevent that outcome.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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