State sees highest employment in history

Published 7:54 pm Friday, January 19, 2018

By Adam Dodson | The Selma Times-Journal

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that December 2017 recorded the highest employment total over a month span in the state’s history.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, 2,093,063 people were counted as employed during that time span.

December 2017 saw 75,698 unemployed persons, which is down from the previous December’s total of 137,875.

The 3.5 percent unemployment rate is almost three percentage points lower than the December 2016 rate of 6.3 percent.

Employment saw increasing strength statewide, with all 67 counties decreasing their unemployment rate over the year period, including Dallas County.

From December 2016 to December 2017, Dallas County dropped their unemployment from 9.1 to 5.6 percent. Over that span, 575 less people were unemployed in the county.

Not only does Alabama appear to be headed in the right direction, but the state is ahead of schedule as well.

“In early 2017, economists predicted that Alabama’s economy would gain 18,700 jobs over the year,” said Secretary of the Alabama Department of Labor Fitzgerald Washington in a press release.  “I’m happy to say that we surpassed that prediction by more than 13,000 jobs, gaining a total of 32,500 jobs. Employers are hiring in Alabama, and we stand ready to provide whatever assistance is needed to make sure that they are able to fill their open positions.”

While Dallas County as a whole has seen a decline in the jobless rate, Selma has also seen improvement with their employment. Compared to the 10 percent unemployment rate last December, Selma recently posted a rate of 6.3 percent.

Wayne Vardaman, executive director for the Dallas County Economic Development Authority, believes there are a bunch of different factors influencing the numbers across the state and in Dallas County. He says that the state’s commitment to improving existing companies played a large role in the uptick in employment, and remarks on how far the county has come.

“You have a lot more companies that are hiring people right now,” Vardaman said. “We have concentrated on focusing on existing companies and I believe these companies have been expanding. Compared to back in 2008 and 2009 when our unemployment was around 20 percent, things are getting better.”

The numbers statewide indicate that Alabama is headed towards a better economy for 2018 than has been present the last two years. With unemployment totals dropping, Alabama is also receiving an influx of new jobs into their market. Ivey says these new jobs bring in more excitement for an already record-breaking time period.

“We’ve been busy recruiting new business to our state, like our recent announcement of Toyota-Mazda’s decision to locate in North Alabama, bringing 4,000 jobs and more than 300 jobs in Troy due to Kimber’s recent announcement,” said Ivey in a press release.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby County (2.5 percent), Cullman County (2.8 percent) and a three-way tie between the counties of Madison, Marshall and Lee (2.9 percent). Counties with the highest unemployment rates were Wilcox County (9.5 percent), Clarke County (6.7 percent), Lowndes County (6.5 percent) and a tie between Greene and Perry County (5.9 percent).

The Alabama Department of Labor reports that out of major Alabama cities, Vestavia Hills (2.1 percent) and Homewood (2.3 percent) had the lowest unemployment rates. Selma had the highest unemployment rate out of major cities listed with 6.3 percent, followed by Prichard with 6.2 percent.