State unemployment improves, Black Belt’s worsens

Published 9:13am Monday, March 18, 2013

MONTGOMERY — While overall, the state of Alabama’s unemployment rate continues to improve, those counties that make up the state’s Black Belt are not faring as well.

In information released Monday, Gov. Robert Bentley and Alabama Department of Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees, touted the release of January’s employment number, which came in at 6.9 percent; the second month in a row the unemployment rate has come in under 7 percent.

But, the same report that unemployment rates in Dallas County, Perry County and Wilcox County had worsened since December and were higher than even those from last January.

In January 2013, Dallas County reported an unemployment rate of 13.9 percent, much higher than then 12.0 percent reported in December and slightly higher than January 2012’s 13.6 percent.

In Perry County, January 2013 saw the unemployment rate register at 13.9 percent, higher than the 12.1 in December and well higher than last January’s 12.9 percent.

Wilcox saw January’s report show 17.4 percent unemployment, the highest in Alabama. That figure was higher than in December (16.5 percent) and far higher than last January (15.4 percent).

Only Lowndes County showed some improvement from year to year. In January 2013, Lowndes reported a 14.5 percent unemployment figure, which was still higher than December’s 11.5 percent, but was lower than the 15.6 percent recorded last January.

While announcing the encouraging overall statewide figures, Bentley did say there is “much work left to be done.”

“The long-term trend in Alabama’s unemployment rate is encouraging news,” Bentley said in a press release Monday.  “We have seen a steady decline in unemployment over time.  Dozens of industries are choosing to build and expand in Alabama, and the result is more people are going back to work.  There is still much work left to be done, however, until Alabama reaches full employment, and our efforts to recruit more jobs will continue.”

January’s rate represents 148,724 unemployed persons, compared to 145,613 in December and 158,040 in January 2012.

In Dallas County, the report showed there were 1,980 residents actively searching for work, slightly higher than the 1,961 seeking work last January.

“This is certainly a positive trend,” Alabama Department of Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees said.  “However, we still have more than 140,000 Alabamians who want to work, and we have to remain focused on helping them find and keep a job.”

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County (5.4 percent), Blount County (6.4 percent) and Madison County (6.6 percent).  Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County (17.4 percent), Lowndes County (14.5 percent) and Bullock, Perry, and Dallas Counties (13.9 percent).

February’s unemployment rate will be released on Friday, March 29.

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