Lowndes County unemployment is fourth highest in state, but educational programs are planned to lead to good paying jobs

Published 9:34 am Friday, August 18, 2017

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

Lowndes County’s preliminary July unemployment rate of 9.9 percent ties Lowndes with Dallas County for the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state.

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However, along with efforts to bring a rural hospital to Lowndes County, educational programs in the county have been announced to help get county students into good paying healthcare profession jobs.

According to the latest numbers released by the Alabama Department of Labor on Friday, Aug. 18th, Wilcox had the highest unemployment rate at 13.5 percent, Perry, second highest at 10.8, percent, Clarke third highest at 10.2 percent, Dallas and Lowndes fourth at 9.9 percent and Greene fifth highest at 8.9 percent.

The rate for Lowndes is up .9 percent from a revised rate of 9 percent in June but is 1 percent lower that the July 2016 revised rate of 10.9 percent. The slight uptick in unemployment helped drop Lowndes from fifth highest in June to fourth highest in July.

Toward the goal of helping Lowndes County school students find good paying jobs, Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd has announced that this January the Lowndes County School System will partner with Wallace State Community College to provide a Health Science Program.

He announced the program in which students who take the high school health science classes will get college credit at Thursday night’s meeting of the Lowndes County Improvement Association (LCIA).

Boyd said six years ago the school system did this with a welding program at Calhoun and Central because one of the highest in demand jobs was welding.

He said that as a result, many Lowndes County students are now at Wallace Community College taking welding, graduating and getting good paying jobs.

Martha Davis Vignes, MA, executive director of Southeast Alabama AHEC (SEAAHEC), also recently announced that a Health Professions Academy will be an “after school program in Lowndes County to recruit 11th and 12 grade students into healthcare careers.”

She said a location has yet to be determined. However, she said, “We will get someone onboard in September” to run it, to get a location, build a curriculum and recruit students. And she said the program would also probably kickoff in January.

The LCIA is a grassroots organization to bring general hospital and medical center complex to Lowndes County and to create a Hayneville Area Chamber of Commerce.

The group seeks to bring a 30-bed critical access hospital with a 24-hour emergency room and medical specialties clinic to the county.

Governor Kay Ivey announced that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted July unemployment rate is 4.5 percent, down from June’s rate of 4.6 percent, and well below July 2016’s rate of 5.8 percent.  July’s rate represents 96,251 unemployed persons, compared to 100,187 in June and 126,182 in July 2016.

“This month, there are fewer people unemployed than there have been in nearly 10 years. This is most welcome news.  But even as our unemployment rate continues to decline, we must

maintain our work to bring quality, high-paying, high-demand jobs to the state of Alabama. This is a goal I’m committed to, and I intend to continue doing just that,” Ivey said.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the number of people counted as unemployed is down 29,931 from July 2016. The last time this measurement was at or below July’s level was in November 2007, when it measured 95,445.

“In addition to this being the lowest unemployment rate Alabama has seen since January 2008, we also continue to see yearly growth in many of Alabama’s industries, including manufacturing and construction,” Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington said. “Upticks in manufacturing and construction jobs are indicative of positive economic growth.”

Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 31,300, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+12,500), the professional and business services sector (+7,200), the manufacturing sector (+6,700), and the construction sector (+4,900), among others.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 3.5 percent, Cullman and Baldwin Counties at 4 percent and Marshall and Elmore Counties at 4.1 percent.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 2.9 percent, Homewood and Hoover at 3.3 percent and Alabaster at 3.4 percent.  Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 10.9 percent, Prichard at 9.7 percent and Anniston at 6.5 percent.