Improving Lowndes unemployment rate still third highest in state, but training program offers county residents help to reenter the workforce

Published 11:40 am Friday, May 19, 2017

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By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

While Alabama is seeing its lowest unemployment numbers in nine years, and Lowndes County’s unemployment rate is showing improvement, the county’s unemployment rate remains third highest in the state. But there help available to get Lowndes County residents back into the work force.

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According to April preliminary numbers released by the Alabama Department of Labor on Friday, May 19, Lowndes County’s unemployment rate improved 1.1 percent over March’s revised rate and improved 1.7 percent over April 2016’s revised rate. But the county still ranked third highest in unemployment the state with a rate of 8.1 percent.

However, a training program, especially for Lowndes County residents who need to gain skills to re-enter the workforce will begin Tuesday, May 30 at the Rural Institute for Technology Education (RITE) Center next to Head Start Headquarters in Hayneville.

Wallace Community College Selma Ready to Work classes offering free job skills and pre-employment training in a six-week course will be held at the center in Hayneville Monday – Thursday from 8 a.m. until 12 noon.

The program is being funded by South Central Alabama Development Commission (SCADC) with assistance from the Lowndes County Commission.

Tucson Roberts, an economic development consultant with the SCADC is working with Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd on the program. Also involved are Wallace Community College Selma, Lowndes County Economic Development Commission Representative Gary Faulkner of The Faulkner Group and the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Tyson Howard, executive director of the SCADC said when a study of Lowndes County economic development was made, it was realized that many manufacturing jobs were being filled by out of county residents.

“We realized that we had a lot of young adults, 18-19, 24-25 years-old, who were not going to college, weren’t employed or in military service.” He said it was decided to get those young adults training to help them be able to apply for jobs and become employed.

Faulkner said the Ready to Work Program is “to help facilitate employment opportunities in Lowndes County.”

According to the Alabama Department of Labor,

However, Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted April unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, down from March’s rate of 5.8 percent, and well below April 2016’s rate of 5.8 percent.

“50,000 more Alabamians are working now compared to last year. This represents thousands of Alabama families that now have more opportunity than before,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “I am proud they have opportunities to put their skills into action. We haven’t seen an unemployment rate this low in nearly nine years. I took office in April and these numbers from that month confirm our message that ‘Alabama is open for business’ is being heard loud and clear.”

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, April’s seasonally adjusted rate for Alabama represents 119,256 unemployed persons, compared to 128,610 in March and 126,490 in April 2016.

Some 2,088,884 people were working in April, up from 2,080,300 in March and 2,038,043 in April 2016.

The last time the unemployment rate was at or below 5.4% was in May 2008, when it measured 5.2%.

“Every metropolitan statistical area and every county in the state saw their rates drop both over the month and over the year,” said Washington. “Wilcox County, which traditionally has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, saw its rate drop two full percentage points this month.”

Wilcox County was highest in unemployment in April at 11.7 percent, Clarke County was second at 8.5 percent, Lowndes third at 8.1 percent, Perry County fourth at 7.8 percent and Greene County fifth at 7.6 percent.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 3.3 percent, Elmore County at 3.6 percent, and Cullman County at 3.7 percent.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Homewood and Vestavia Hills at 2.9 percent, Hoover at 3.1 percent, and Alabaster at 3.2 percent.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Prichard at 8.2 percent, Selma at 7.8 percent, and Bessemer at 6.2 percent.