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Pre-virus numbers show record-low unemployment

The Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) on Friday released unemployment numbers for February, which show the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate unchanged from January at 2.7 percent, an improvement over the February 2019 rate of 3.5 percent.

Selma’s unemployment rate of 5.9 percent was the highest among major cities in the state, though February’s rate is a slight improvement over January’s rate of 6.1 percent and a significant gain over the February 2019 rate of 8.3 percent.

Dallas County’s February unemployment rate of 5.1 percent narrowly kept it off of the list of counties with the highest unemployment rates and marks a small improvement over January’s rate of 5.5 percent and a two-point gain over the February 2019 rate of 7.1 percent.

According to an ADOL press release, all 67 counties in the state saw a year-over-year improvement in unemployment numbers and 65 of those counties say month-to-month improvements.

The statewide rate represents a workforce of nearly 2.2 million people, an increase of more than 23,000 workers over the year, 

Wage and salary employment rose by 13,000 in February, with monthly gains seen in the professional and business sector, which added more than 5,000 employees, the education and health services sector, which added more than 4,200 to payrolls, and the government sector, which added more than 3,300 jobs.

Over the year, wage and salary employment rose by 21,300, with significant gains in the government sector, which added over 6,600 jobs, the education and health services sector, which added more than 5,300 to payrolls, and the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which saw its employment rise by more than 2,800.

Average weekly wages increased to $878.55, up from $872.50 in January and $842.75 in February 2019, with the following sectors seeing record-high wages in February 2020:

• Trade, transportation and utilities sector – $728.94;

• Financial activities sector – $1,144.94;

• Leisure and hospitality – $336,69.

Joining Selma on the list of major cities with the highest unemployment rates for February 2020 were Pritchard, at 5.8 percent, and Gadsden, at 4.7 percent, while Vetstavia Hills, 1.6 percent, Homewood, Hoover and Northport, all at 1.9 percent, and Madison, 2.0 percent, were listed as the cities with the lowest unemployment rates last month.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates in the state were Wilcox County, at 8.5 percent, Clarke County, at 5.6 percent, and Greene County, at 5.5 percent, while Shelby County, 2.1 percent, Madison County, at 2.3 percent, and Tuscaloosa, Morgan, Marshall, Limestone and Lee counties, all at 2.4 percent, were listed as the counties with the lowest unemployment rates.

The most recent numbers handed down by ADOL do not reflect any of the shutdowns or layoffs that have followed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will likely wreak havoc on future unemployment numbers to be distributed in the coming weeks.