Friday, the Alabama Department of Labor announced that our state reached a new record low unemployment rate of 3.0 percent. The governor said in a statement that she is very proud of this news, but is remaining laser focused on helping all Alabamians who want a job to get a job.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) said, “Since taking office, our unemployment rate has dropped time & time again. Today, I’m overjoyed to announce we’ve done it again & set a new record low unemployment rate of 3%! Folks, that’s incredible news! Take a look at our other records.”
The state also set new records for the number of people working, the number of people in the Alabama labor force, a new record low number of people unemployed, and a new record for wage and salary employment.
75,000 more people were working in September than were working in September of 2018.
Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced Friday that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted September unemployment rate is 3.0 percent which is down from August’s previous record setting rate of 3.1 percent, and below September 2018’s rate of 3.8 percent. The September rate represents 2,194,158 employed persons, a new record high, up 75,426 from September 2018. There were 66,919 unemployed persons counted in September, setting yet another record low, compared to 70,608 in August and 84,568 in September 2018.
The civilian labor force grew to 2,261,077, a new high, up from 2,255,088 in August and 2,203,300 in September 2018.
“Here we are again, Alabama! Once again, we’re breaking economic records: new low unemployment rate, more people working than ever before, fewer unemployed people than ever before, and the largest labor force we’ve ever seen,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “While we continue to be proud and amazed at these wonderful numbers, we cannot become complacent and forget our commitment to Alabama – to make sure that everyone who wants a job can have one. We’re working hard to make that a reality, and we will keep pushing for even more economic opportunities for hardworking Alabamians.”
“The job growth that Alabama is experiencing in 2019 is outstanding,” said Washington. “Since January, our economy has grown 55,900 jobs – more than double what economists predicted our job growth for the year would be – and we still have three months to account for! We’re outpacing the nation in over-the-year job growth as well, reaching our largest job growth percentage of the year at 2.3%.”
Alabama’s economy has gained 55,900 jobs since January 2019. The University of Alabama economists who had prepared the 2019 Alabama Economic Outlook had predicted that 2019 total job growth would measure 22,200. The booming Trump-Ivey economy has surpassed that goal by two and a half times.
Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 46,600 to a new record high of 2,093,800. The largest gains were in the professional and business services sector (+11,900), the leisure and hospitality sector (+9,400), and the education and health services sector (+5,400), among others.
This represents 2019’s highest over-the-year job growth percentage at 2.3 percent, which surpassed the national job growth percentage of 1.4 percent. This is the eighth consecutive month in which Alabama’s job growth percentage either sustained or surpassed the national job growth percentage.
Economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Alabama has jobs and continues to break unemployment records because leadership in the public and private sector continues to collaborate and create an environment conducive for economic growth. The workforce development initiatives created through partnerships between businesses, the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL), and AIDT help ensure Alabamians are trained well and can fill the jobs available in a variety of areas.”
Wage and salary employment increased in September by 10,600. Monthly gains were seen in the government sector (+8,100), the education and health services sector (+2,200), and the manufacturing sector (+1,300), among others.
“Not only are we growing jobs, earnings are also increasing,” continued Washington. “In September, Alabamians’ average weekly earnings reached their second highest level in history.”
Total private average weekly earnings increased by $11.97 over the month to $862.70, which also represents an over-the-year increase of $12.81. The only time average weekly earnings were higher was in December 2018, when they measured $866.63.
All counties and major cities experienced rate drops both over-the-month and over-the-year. Wilcox County, which is traditionally the county with the highest unemployment rate, saw its rate reach a record low in September at 6.2 percent.
“I am especially impressed with Wilcox County, which historically has had numbers in the double digits – some of the highest in our state,” Dr. Jones said. “Now, this rural Blackbelt county’s rate is around 6.2%! ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington and his team deserve much credit for this because of their willingness to meet the community where it was at and work with companies to design education and training programs aimed to increase skills needed to attain employment. When Alabamians are working, we all benefit.”
The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 1.9 percent, Morgan, Marshall, Madison, and Limestone Counties at 2.1 percent, and Tuscaloosa, Lee, Elmore, Cullman, Crenshaw, and Baldwin Counties at 2.2 percent. The counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 6.2 percent, Dallas County at 5.2 percent, and Clarke County at 5.1 percent.
The major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Northport at 1.5 pecentrcent, Vestavia Hills at 1.6 percent, and Homewood at 1.7 percent. The major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 5.9 percent, Prichard at 4.9 percent, and Bessemer at 3.7 percent.
New unemployment claims continued dropping last week
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.
Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
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:
- 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.
Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now
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.”
“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.”
SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally
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.
More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.