Archived Story

State unemployment rises slightly

Published 8:31pm Friday, November 22, 2013

The Alabama Department of Labor reported Friday that the state’s unemployment rate went up in September and October in a release of figures that were delayed by the government shutdown.

Labor Director Tom Surtees called the late release a “unique situation” as he announced a 0.3 percent rise in the jobless rate since the last report in August. October’s 6.5 percent unemployment figure represented 3,742 more Alabamians looking for work over that two-month period.

“We have never experienced a reporting period quite like this one,” said Surtees. “Obviously, the federal government shutdown impacted many jobs in Alabama. It also affected the numbers and how they were reported. Thousands of Alabamians were out of work in October due to the shutdown, and therefore affected our unemployment rate.”

Surtees said the labor department estimates there are 40,000 federal employees in Alabama and “nearly 2,000” of them filed initial unemployment compensation claims. But “thousands more did not,” he said.

“Whether they didn’t file because they knew they would be later paid, or for some other reason, we can’t really know,” he said. “When they file claims, they are traceable to

some extent. The problem arose when the federal government conducted its monthly employment surveys and found discrepancies in the ways these federal government workers answered employment questions.”

Tallapoosa County was at 7.8 percent unemployment in October, a figure representing 1,336 unemployed residents. Detailed county data was not yet available.

The jobless rate ticked upwards during both months in which data was delayed due to the shutdown. In September, joblessness rose to 6.4 percent statewide, an increase of almost 2,500 since August’s announcement.

In October, the rate edged up again to 6.5 percent, an increase of almost 2,000 unemployed Alabamians.

Both monthly figures, Surtees noted, were still well below the rate reported a year earlier. In October of 2012, 152,957 state residents were out of work, according to the labor department.

Surtees touted three counties with significant drops in unemployment versus the October 2012 numbers, including Greene County, down 1.6 percent, Washington and Chambers counties, both down 1.5 percent. All but three Alabama counties showed a decrease in the jobless rate over the last year.

After falling slightly in September, wage and salary employment increased in October by 8,600.

One industry leading the increase, Surtees said, is motor vehicle parts manufacturing, which has increased by nearly 17 percent since October 2012.

Shelby County led the state with the lowest unemployment rate, at 4.4 percent. Wilcox County reported the highest rate, at 15.5 percent.