Alabama unemployment rate drops

Taylor Holland

Alabama received good news on the job front recently, as figures were released showing that the state’s unemployment rate dropped in November for the first time since September 2007.

The state Department of Industrial Relations announced that Alabama’s rate of unemployment dropped from 10.9 percent in October to 10.5 percent in November, providing a positive sign for the state’s workforce.

Ahmad Ijaz, economic analyst at the UA Center for Business and Economic Research, said the decrease was due in part to seasonal hiring. Retailers hired about 4,300 workers in November for the holidays.

“The main reason why the unemployment rate went down was because of a decline in the labor force,” Ijaz said. “If a person quits looking for a job, the so-called discouraged workers are not counted as unemployed, which pulls down the unemployment rate. A person is only counted as unemployed if they are actively looking for work.”

Alabama’s decline in unemployment was similar to that experienced throughout the United States. Nationwide unemployment went from 10.2 percent to 10 percent in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Alabama is one of 36 states that has shown a drop in unemployment of late. Alabama’s new unemployment rate shows that 217,350 people are out of work, which is down from the 226,466 people who were without jobs in October, according to numbers released by the Department of Industrial Relations.

While this is good news, it may not indicate a permanent change in unemployment.

“We are certainly glad to see a drop in the unemployment rate,” said Department of Industrial Relations director Tom Surtees. “But we need to keep in mind that a one month drop is not a trend.”

Paul Pecorino, a UA professor of economics, said these unemployment numbers can be misleading.

“Right now, we’ve yet to see a true employment report because of all of those dropping out of the labor force,” Pecorino said. “I think to see that there would have to be substantial job growth. Until then, people will continue to be disappointed and anxious.”

Alabama conducts two surveys each month, one to help calculate the unemployment rate and another to assess employers.

The latest survey showed that non-farm jobs increased by nearly 5,200, raising the number to 1.91 million across the state. Alabama also saw a 3.5 percent increase in construction jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The counties that had the lowest unemployment rates in November were Shelby and Madison with 7.3 percent, Coffee with 7.8 percent and Pike with 8.2 percent unemployment. The counties with the highest rates were Wilcox with 24.3 percent, Monroe with 21.1 percent and Dallas with 20.3 percent.