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Alabama’s unemployment numbers rise

Updated unemployment numbers for Alabama show the Black Belt is still one of the most adversely affected by the economic recession.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates in February were Wilcox at 21.5 percent, Chambers at 18.9 percent and Dallas at 18.5 percent. Counties with the lowest rates were Shelby at 6.1 percent, Madison at 6.2 percent, and Lee and Coffee at 7.0 percent.

The statewide unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent in February, the highest mark in 22 years and more than double from a year ago. That’s more than double the 87,778 who were unemployed a year earlier, when Alabama’s rate was 4.1 percent.

The picture looks grim, but Economic Development Authority Executive Director Wayne Vardaman pointed to temporary layoffs as a factor in some of the numbers.

“Some of these companies have one-week, two-week furloughs. That gets thrown in there, and it skews everything,” Vardaman said.

State Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said Friday the rate was up from 7.8 percent in January, and there were 180,547 unemployed.