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Selma unemployment nears 11% in January, tops 8% in county

The Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) released January unemployment figures for the state Monday, which showed Selma with a 10.9 percent unemployment rate for the month, an increase over December 2020’s rate of 9.3 percent and well above the January 2020 rate of 5.9 percent.

Selma’s rate once again had it listed among the “major” cities facing the state’s highest unemployment rates, alongside Prichard, 11.5 percent, and Bessemer, 7.9 percent – according to 2019 Census numbers, Prichard has a population of just under 22,000 and Bessemer has a population of just under 27,000, while Selma’s population was calculated at just over 18,000.

Dallas County likewise saw an increase in unemployment, climbing up from December 2020’s rate of 7.4 percent to January 2021’s rate of 8.7 percent, more than three percentage points above the January 2020 rate of 5.4 percent.

All of the counties listed as suffering the state’s highest unemployment rates were in the Black Belt – Wilcox County, 12.4 percent, Lowndes County, 21.1 percent, and Perry County, 9.5 percent.

Statewide, however, ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington is celebrating the lowest unemployment rate seen since the start of the pandemic – Alabama’s January 2021 unemployment rate of 4.3 percent was an improvement over the December 2020 rate of 4.7 percent, but still above the January 2020 rate of 2.7 percent.

“As we begin a new year, it’s encouraging to see our monthly unemployment rate drop, marking a new record low since the pandemic began,” Washington said in a press release. “While we are still not where we were before this year of massive change, we are making progress. More were employed this month, and fewer were unemployed, which is always good.”

The January 2021 rate represents just over 97,700 unemployed Alabamians versus over 2.16 million employed Alabamians, an improvement over the December numbers, which saw more than 106,300 unemployed Alabamians and over 2.15 million employed Alabamians.

While more Alabamians are working, wage and salary employment decreased in January 2021 by 28,600, with losses seen in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, 11,400, the professional and business services sector, 4,500, and the leisure and hospitality sector, 3,800.

“It is not uncommon for the number of jobs to drop from December to January,” Washington said in the release. “This happens nearly every year and is related to holiday and seasonal employment ending. Combined with the extraordinary circumstances of the last year, it’s not surprising to see job losses. However, the trends of the past few months indicate that we will likely soon begin to see the jobs number climb again.”

Over the year, wage and salary employment decreased by 69,500, with the largest losses felt in the leisure and hospitality sector, 20,500, the education and health services sector, 11,100, and the government sector, 10,000.

For January 2021, only the mining and logging sector reported an increase in wage and salary employment – according to the ADOL report, the sector added roughly 300 jobs.