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Employment numbers remain steady for second month

By: Adam Dodson

The state and Selma-Dallas County areas saw little to no change in their employment numbers released earlier this week by the Alabama Department of Labor.

A month after the state set a personal record for residents who are working, February’s numbers brought much of the same success. The unemployment numbers mirror January’s numbers, with 80,685 unemployed persons in Alabama. This is 122 fewer people than the month before and the 3.7 percent unemployment rate is 1.6 percentage points lower than February 2017’s rate of 5.3 percent.

For Dallas County, the unemployment rate stayed the exact same as January at 6.7 percent. For Selma, the unemployment rate rose two percent to 7.2 after the civilian labor force increased by 93 people but added 16 people to the list of unemployed.

To Dallas County Economic Development Authority director Wayne Vardaman, the numbers show a sign of improvement compared to last year, and show a sign of significant progress compared to three or four years ago.

“Here is what you have to understand: three or four years ago we were at 20 percent unemployment. The numbers have become more stable. A couple companies have added more people,” Vardman said.

He then broke down some of the discrepancies that can exist in the unemployment measurement process.

“It is unfortunate, but this is not an exact science. They do not seasonally adjust the numbers for rural areas, but they do for metropolitan areas. These numbers are based on trends. It has a lot to do with people looking for jobs who weren’t before. New jobs are hard to come by; there is much more success from expansion of companies that are already there.”

Furthermore, Vardaman said that Selma and Dallas County’s numbers could possibly be hurt by people who do not live in the areas, but commute into the city or county to work, meaning their employment numbers instead benefit the city in which they reside.

Despite the discrepancies, the unemployment numbers stayed consistent statewide, with 60 of the 67 counties seeing a change in unemployment of two percent or less.

For Governor Kay Ivey, the stability combined with record numbers has her thinking positively about Alabama’s future.

“The fact that we are able to maintain our record-low unemployment rate for yet another month shows that we are, in fact, keeping Alabamians working,” Ivey said in a press release. “Once again, we can announce that we have the fewest number of unemployed people in history.”

The state has also seen growth in wage and salary employment. Since the start of 2018, wage and salary employment increased by 19,300 jobs, with the education and health services sector rising adding 5,000 jobs, the professional and business sector increasing by 4,300 and the hospitality sector increasing up to 4,200.

According to the numbers, the counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby (3.1), Cullman (3.6) and a three-way tie for third between Madison, Marshall, and Blount counties (3.7).

Major cities with the lowest unemployment numbers are Vestavia Hills (2.6), Homewood (2.9) and a tie between Alabaster and Hoover (3.0).