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Dallas County unemployment rate drops

By Desiree Taylor

Selma Times-Journal

It looks as though the economy is getting a little bit better for Dallas County.

According to Alabama’s unemployment numbers released Friday, Dallas County’s unemployment rate in May 2009 was 15, 252 and dropped to 14, 882 in May 2010, a drop of nearly 1 percent.

Dr. Margaret Hardy, site director for Selma Career Center, said the increase in jobs is due to automotive and industrial industries like Hyundai and International Paper.

In 8 to 10 years we have attracted three Hyundai employers to fill the need,” said Hardy, who has worked with unemployment services for 25 years. “International Paper places over 1,000 jobs with us and people come in droves.”

Hardy said the unemployment rate tends to fluctuate and in order for Selma’s economy to change, more industrial jobs need to be available.

“When Craig Air Force Base closed, things just haven’t been the same. Not everybody desires college, but they still want to make an honest living and live with dignity, so industrialized jobs could help. We can definitely have more employers to fill the need,” Hardy said.

Craig Air Force Base, once a top-rated pilot training facility, closed its doors in the late 1970s.

Hardy added that if people do not have the money they cannot put it back into the economy.

“The less people have, the less they spend,” Hardy said. “Things like unemployment benefits helps pump income into the economy and that impacts the community.”

James Cover, professor of economics at the University of Alabama, said Alabama’s economy should get better once other states have improved.

“Alabama (for instance) was less effected by the housing market problem than other states,” Cover said. “Once other states do better, then Alabama will. Once the demand for automobiles goes up across the country, more jobs will be available in Alabama to help the economy.”

Cover said banks and the government have to also do their part to help the economy grow.

“For employment to grow, markets have to adjust to whatever has caused the recession,” Cover said. “Businesses that want to expand have trouble getting loans and credits because of policies in place, so if businesses can’t get backing from investors and banks, it will be hard for them to be successful. If banks lend to more qualified borrowers and the government reduces government spending, the economy will grow.”

Wayne Vardaman, executive director of Economic Development Authority (EDA), said companies have cut employment by 50 percent and individual numbers matter most.

“The numbers are somewhat misleading,” said the president of Center for Commerce. “ It (unemployment) all depends on the national economy’s statewide numbers coming down. The civilian labor force changes once students graduate. If Jobs are not available, unemployment goes up even when nothing has really changed. Dallas County is a rural community and rural communities are hit hardest, especially when a company cuts back.”

Despite the facts, Vardaman is hopeful of the city’s future.

“There are jobs available,” he said. “The more people that are employed, the more disposable income available to spend for goods and services. As a result, the state’s sales tax will increase and this helps the city and county provide services, which help. Once the recession ends, there will be more opportunities in the workforce,”

”Things have really picked up in the area,” Vardaman said. “The EDA wants to save jobs and create them.”