Workforce growth ends AL unemployment slide

By Rick Journey

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - Encouraging signs from are coming from Alabama's jobless ranks. February employment ended a three month slide in Alabama when the state's work force grew by 11,300.

The State Department of Industrial Relations says those jobs came from across the board in areas such as professional and business services, manufacturing, hospitality, government and educational and health services.

Even with those gains, the unemployment rate remains unchanged at 11.1%. Some counties, like Jefferson, Blount and Cullman have double digit unemployment, but around and just below the state rate. Counties like Bibb, St. Clair and Walker have unemployment from 11.5% to about 15%. Counties like Greene, Perry, Clay and Coosa show unemployment at 15% and much higher. The top five with the lowest jobless rates are Madison, Shelby, Coffee, Pike and Tuscaloosa. Wilcox County has the highest unemployment at 27%, followed by Monroe, Conecuh, Dallas and Winston.

Still, Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees says the overall statistics are encouraging. "Manufacturing is driving the numbers," says Surtees. "Manufacturing and other industries as consumer confidence builds and we're producing more durable goods, you'll see a decrease in unemployment."

So when does the state's actual unemployment rate fall? One percentage point equals about 25,000 jobs. Statewide, more than 227,000 people are unemployed.

The governor's office took advantage of the latest numbers to take a jab at state lawmakers. In a statement released Friday morning, Governor Riley says his "jumpstarting jobs" bill would create thousands more jobs by providing incentives for companies to hire. He called on the legislature to pass his jobs plan.

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