County unemployment rate improves, more jobs slated for county

Published 10:54 am Friday, September 15, 2017

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By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

Lowndes County’s unemployment rate improved from fourth to fifth highest in the state with more jobs coming, according to recent developments and preliminary August numbers released by the Alabama Department of Labor on Friday, Sept. 15.

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Wilcox County had the highest unemployment rate in the state at 11.3 percent, Clarke County was second at 8.6 percent, Greene County was third highest at 7.8 percent, Perry County and Dallas County were tied for fourth highest at 7.7 percent, and Lowndes County was fifth highest at 7.4 percent in August.

The August preliminary rate for Lowndes was 2.5 percent lower than the county’s revised July rate of 9.9 percent and 3.8 percent lower than the August 2016 rate of 11.2 percent.

Jim Byard Jr., economic development director for the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission (LCEDC), told the Lowndes County Commission at its Tuesday, Sept. 12 meeting that the Love’s Travel Stop & Country Store project at Exit 158 on Interstate 65 in Lowndes County is on target to be completed in October of this year.

Last October, while Byard was serving as then director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), he and then Gov. Robert Bentley said the grant funded Love’s project would create 30 local jobs in Lowndes County.

Byard said at the Sept. 12 County Commission meeting, a grand opening for Love’s will be held in November “hopefully” prior to Thanksgiving. He said the business should be open for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Byard also said the county’s recent Ready to Work Program was completed with five graduates and that 12 Lowndes Countians have graduated from the program to date. He said, “While 12 isn’t a big number, if you think about 12 lives, that’s 12 families that have been changed by the Ready to Work Program.” He said the next class should begin this fall.

In addition, Joe Bell Jr. of Bell Ventures LLC recently told the Lowndes Signal that construction on a new Ace Hardware business in Hayneville will begin as early as November. He told the Lowndes County Commission in May of 2016, “The project supports the county economic growth efforts by retaining jobs and creating new jobs.”

Governor Kay Ivey announced Friday that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted August unemployment rate is 4.2 percent, down from July’s rate of 4.5 percent, and well below August 2016’s rate of 5.9 percent.

“After hovering near the national unemployment rate for several months, Alabama’s rate has dropped below it for the first time in many years,” Ivey said. “This is a milestone we’ve been working toward for some time. We announced this week that Autocar, LLC. is opening a new plant in Birmingham, bringing nearly 750 new jobs. As we continue to recruit new businesses to Alabama, hopefully, we’ll be able to maintain that achievement in the months to come.”

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the comparable national unemployment rate is 4.4 percent, up slightly from July’s rate of 4.3 percent. The last time Alabama’s unemployment rate was below the national rate was in October 2013.

August’s rate represents 90,913 unemployed persons, compared to 96,158 in July and 128,413 in August 2016. The last time the number of unemployed was at or below 90,913 was in August 2007, when it measured 89,206.

2,057,109 were counted as employed, compared to 2,063,900 in July and 2,044,186 in August 2016.

“In August, we had the lowest number of unemployed in a decade,” Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington said. “We continue to see increases in the number of jobs our economy is supporting, almost doubling economists’ projected job gains for the entire year within the first eight months.”

Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 28,300, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+9,600), the professional and business services sector (+7,600), and the construction sector (+6,500), among others.

Wage and salary employment increased in August by 3,100.  Monthly gains were seen in the government sector (+3,100), the professional and business sector (+2,700), and the education and health services sector (+2,200), among others.

All counties, major cities, and metropolitan statistical areas experienced drops in their unemployment rates, both over the year and over the month.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 3.2 percent; Cullman County at 3.6 percent; and Elmore, Madison, and Marshall Counties at 3.7 percent.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 11.3 percent, Clarke County at 8.6 percent and Greene County at 7.8 percent.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 2.8 percent, Homewood at 2.9 percent and Alabaster at 3.0 percent. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 8.3 percent, Prichard at 8.0 percent and Bessemer at 5.6 percent.