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Economy

State sets new record low unemployment rates, number of people working

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Department of Labor announced Friday that the state has set a new record low in unemployment rate, a new record high jobs count, a new record high employment count, a new record high labor force count and a new record low unemployment count

Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced on Friday that June’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is just 3.5 percent, setting a new record low, beating the previous record low of 3.7 percent. June’s rate represents 2,160,931 employed people, a new record high and represents 10,456 more than last month’s count and 48,952 more than in June 2018.

“Another month, and yet another set of broken records,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “It’s so exciting to be able to announce these great numbers month after month. It’s always positive to announce a new record low unemployment rate, but we also saw more people working than ever before, fewer unemployed than ever before, more people in the workforce than ever before and finally, more jobs than ever before. These gains are momentous, and we certainly hope they continue as the year progresses.”

The civilian labor force increased over the year by 39,099 to a record high of 2,240,309. The civilian labor force represents the number of people, aged 16 and over, who are either working or looking for work, excluding the military and those in institutions.

The number of people counted as unemployed dropped to a new record low of 79,378, which represents a drop of 9,853 people from June 2018.

“Let’s talk about jobs. Our economy is supporting more jobs than ever before,” Washington said. “There are over 37,000 more jobs in Alabama today than a year ago. Those jobs are coming with the second highest average weekly earnings in history. Workers are earning an extra $44.76 per week than they were a year ago and $21.91 more than they were just last month. Two of our employment sectors saw their highest average weekly earnings: the trade, transportation and utilities sector and the professional and business services sector. So not only are we gaining jobs, but Alabamians are bringing home more in their paychecks.”

Wages are also increasing. Total private industry average weekly earnings measured $860.73 in June, which is up from $838.82 in May and $815.97 in June 2018. That amounts to an average pay raise of 6.1 percent versus June 2018.

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“Alabama is open for business,” said economic developer Nicole Jones to the Alabama Political Reporter. “Leadership in the public and private sector continues to collaborate to promote available job opportunities and the skills needed to attain specific career paths.”

Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 37,300, with gains in the professional and business services sector of over 8,000, the construction sector over 7,800 and the leisure and hospitality sector up over 6,800 jobs, among others.

Wage and salary employment increased in June by 6,600. Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector of over 1,500 jobs, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector of over 1,100 jobs, and the construction sector of over 1,000 jobs, among others.

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The trade, transportation and utilities sector and the professional and business sector’s average weekly earnings measured $702.96 and $1,087.97, respectively, which represents both sectors’ record high earnings.

All 67 counties saw declines in their over-the-year unemployment rates, with drops ranging from half a percentage point to more than 3 percentage points. Wilcox County, which traditionally has the state’s highest unemployment rate, saw its rate drop by 3.4 percentage points to 7.3 percent, its third lowest rate ever recorded.

“To put this in perspective, take a look at Wilcox County,” Washington said. “During the recession, the county’s unemployment rate peaked at 31 percent in February 2010. Nearly one in three people in that county’s labor force were out of work. Now, they are at a near record low unemployment rate.”

“Since his appointment in 2014, Secretary Fitzgerald Washington and his team at the Alabama Department of Labor have analyzed trends in unemployment rates and subsequently taken a proactive approach to address the issue,” Jones said. “Many times this meant traveling to residents in our 67 counties to better understand their career goals and current skillsets. ADOL then brought employers and additional training to them. Collectively, these efforts have worked, literally and metaphorically, by making a difference in the lives of fellow Alabamians.”

The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby County at 2.5 percent, Marshall County at 2.8 percent and Baldwin County at 2.9 percent. The counties with the highest unemployment rates are Wilcox County at 7.3 percent, Greene and Perry counties at 6.8 percent and Clarke County at 6.5 percent.

The major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are Vestavia Hills at 2.2 percent, Homewood at 2.3 percent and Alabaster at 2.4 percent. The major cities with the highest unemployment rates are Selma at 7.2 percent, Prichard at 6.6 percent and Anniston at 4.9 percent.

The current population, or the household survey, is conducted by the Census Bureau and identifies members of the work force and measures how many people are working or looking for work.

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

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

New unemployment claims continued dropping last week

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.

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Economy

Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday. 

The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. 

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.” 

After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release. 

Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.

Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:

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  • Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
  • Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
  • Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389

PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.

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Economy

Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.

“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”

Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.

“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”

Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.

“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”

“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”

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“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”

“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”

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Economy

SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Thousands of SNAP recipients in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties are set to receive automatic replacement benefits as a result of Hurricane Sally, the Alabama Department of Human Resources announced Thursday.

Recipients who received their benefits Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 will receive a replacement of 50 percent of their regular monthly benefit. Those who received supplemental pandemic maximum allotment payments will receive a replacement of 30 percent of those benefits.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the replacement benefits today at the request of DHR. The benefits are intended to replace food purchased with SNAP that was lost to widespread power outages caused when Hurricane Sally made landfall on Sept. 16.

“Our priority is to remove the very real threat of hunger for the many Alabamians who are struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sally,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “The first step toward that goal is to replace the food that so many Alabamians lost to the storm. We are actively working to obtain additional resources to provide much-needed relief for the region as it recovers.”

Hurricane Sally caused over 265,000 households to lose power for at least four hours in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties, where approximately 54,000 households will receive SNAP benefits totaling an estimated $8.5 million.

Those recipients should expect to see the replacement benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards next week.

The Food Assistance Division of DHR administers the SNAP program in Alabama.

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More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.

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