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Lowndes unemployment dips below 6 percent for first time in 2018

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

According to preliminary November Alabama Department of Labor numbers, employment and job counts have once again reached record levels in Alabama. And while Lowndes continues rank the third highest in unemployment in the state, Lowndes County’s unemployment rate dipped below 6 percent for the first time in 2018.

Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.0 percent, down from October’s rate of 4.1 percent, and above November 2017’s rate of 3.8 percent.  November’s rate represents 87,757 unemployed persons, compared to 89,745 in October and 81,970 in November 2017.

Also, in November 2018, 2,128,082 people were counted as employed, an increase of 46,330 from November 2017.  Wage and salary employment, which measures the number of jobs our economy is supporting, grew to 2,069,800, representing a yearly increase of 35,400 jobs.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor numbers, Lowndes’ November preliminary unemployment rate of 5.8 percent, is a 1 percent improvement over October’s revised rate of 6.8 and .4 percent better than its November 2017 revised unemployment rate 6.2 percent.

But the 5.8 percent preliminary rate is also the lowest for the county in 2018. For the year, unemployment rates for Lowndes are as follows: January 7.5 percent, February 7.4 percent, March 6.9 percent, April 6.5 percent, May 6.5 percent, June 8.6 percent, July 8.4 percent, August 7.8 percent, September 7.2 percent, October 6.8 percent and November preliminary 5.8 percent. The average for the year has been 7.2 percent.

When contacted for comment, Jim Byard Jr., director of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission (LCEDC) said of the dip below 6 percent, “A. That’s very good news. Secondly, I would say this is a team effort.”

Byard said the LCEDC works in cooperation with the county commission and the city governments, also in partnership with the businesses located in Lowndes County, who all have a common effort and a common cause.

“In a rural Black Belt Alabama County, it takes everybody pulling in the same direction,” Byard said. “While the economy across the nation is improving, it takes that partnership that is forged in Lowndes County to make ensure that that happens here. And that’s a good result.”

Still, with Wilcox County having the highest preliminary November unemployment rate of 7.9 percent and Clarke County second at 6.4 percent, Lowndes County comes in tied with Dallas County at 5.8 percent for the third highest unemployment rate in the state. Greene County comes in fourth with 5.7 percent and Perry County fifth at 5.4 percent.

“Business is booming in Alabama,” said Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We are continuing to shatter employment records month after month.  Jobs are growing at a record 1.7 percent yearly growth rate. It’s a great time to be doing business in Alabama.”

Wage and salary employment grew by 1.7 percent from November 2017 to November 2018, tying with October 2018 and July 2015 for the largest over-the-year percentage growth in history.

Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 35,400, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+11,900), the manufacturing sector (+10,200), and the education and health services sector (+3,200), among others.

Wage and salary employment increased in November by 6,400.  Monthly gains were seen in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+6,000), the education and health services sector (+1,700), and the government sector (+1,200), among others.

“Average weekly earnings continue to increase, with workers seeing an additional $34.76 per week in their paychecks,” continued Washington.  “Those working in the manufacturing sector also saw an increase in their earnings, with manufacturing weekly earnings at their highest level in history.”

Total private average weekly earnings increased to $838.89, up from $804.13 in November 2017, representing a $34.76 increase. This represents the second highest level in history, surpassed only by September 2018’s average weekly wages of $849.89.

Manufacturing earnings rose to their highest level in history, to $1062.18 per week.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 2.5 percent, Marshall, Madison, and Cullman Counties at 2.9 percent and Morgan, Limestone and Elmore Counties at 3.0 percent.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Homewood and Vestavia Hills at 2.3 percent, Alabaster at 2.4 percent, and Northport, Madison, and Hoover at 2.5 percent.  Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 6.5 percent, Prichard at 6.1 percent and Anniston at 4.7 percent.