Alabama's unemployment rate for December 2013 reached the lowest point for the state since 2008. However, the figures also show that the state's workforce has shrunk considerably over the past several years.
Alabama's preliminary seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate is 6.1%, which is down 0.1% from the November rate. The last time the state's unemployment rate was at or below 6.1% was in October of 2008, when the rate was 5.9%
December's rate represents 129,743 unemployed people, which is down from 132,301 in November. In December of 2012 the number of unemployed people was 145,613. Perry and Wilcox Counties represent the highest percentage of unemployment in our area, with rates at 11.4% and 14.2%.
The number of unemployed has fallen fairly consistently since August 2012, but unfortunately, so too has the state's workforce and number of people actually working.
Since January 2011, when Gov. Robert Bentley took office, Alabama's workforce has decreased in size from 2.20 million civilians working and actively searching for jobs, down to 2.11. In raw numbers, the state's workforce has shrunk by 85,673 people according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
When it comes to actual employment, there are approximately 10,300 fewer people working in Alabama since January 2011.
With the workforce and number of employed going down, so too has the number of unemployed. Like the other two key indicators, the number of unemployed people in Alabama has plummeted by about 75,300 people. Many of those people who are no longer counted as unemployed simply gave up searching for work and don't figure into the official count.
Tom Surtees with the Alabama Department of Labor commented in a press release that the figures are positive, but cautioned anyone excited about the percentage.
"While we are certainly pleased to announce that our unemployment rate is at a five year low, we know that we are not in a perfect situation, employment wise," Surtees said. "There are still more than 120,000 Alabamians who want a job, and we must focus our efforts on helping those people find work."
"We continue to see record numbers of job orders on the state's free online jobs database, www.joblink.alabama.gov, and I'd like to personally encourage anyone who is searching for a job to visit the site, or, for more personalized and targeted assistance, visit their local career center."
There were about 18,000 active job orders placed on JobLink in December, and nearly 50,000 job ads placed online statewide over various online job sites.
Gov. Bentley also released a statement on the December figures. He did not address the numbers that have dropped precipitously since he took office. He instead decided to focus on the jobs that have been announced under his watch that will eventually contribute to the state's workforce.
"There are 59,400 more jobs today in Alabama than there were in January of 2011, with the greatest job growth coming from the manufacturing sector. There are over 40,000 new, future jobs coming to Alabama. We're announcing new, well-paying jobs in six locations across the state this month alone. The University of Alabama's Center for Business and Economic Research just last week released its economic forecast which predicts greater growth and an estimated 25,000 jobs to be added in 2014. This is all great news for Alabamians who need a well-paying job, but I won't be satisfied until every person who wants a job can get a job in this state."
Wage and Salary employment decreased 1,400 from November to December 2013, but increased over 10,500 over the past 12 months.