Sunday, June 19, 2011

Alabama unemployment rises in May as job market remains anemic


Alabama's jobless rate rose to 9.6 percent in May as an anemic labor market was again unable to keep up with the growth in the number of people looking for jobs, much less drive down unemployment.
May's number was up from 9.3 percent in April. More significantly, it's also above the 9.5 percent rate of May 2010.
Topping the year-ago jobless rate shows how the state's employment recovery, which seemed to be chugging along at this time a year ago, is now running in reverse. The jobless rate stopped improving after hitting 9.1 percent in August, and has been moving upward since the beginning of 2011.
The number of unemployed people rose to nearly 207,000 in May, above 200,000 for the first time since May 2010. Statewide unemployment peaked at 10.4 percent in late 2009, when nearly 225,000 people were jobless.
It's not that more people haven't found jobs since last month or last year. An additional 5,000 Alabamians said they had a job last month compared to April. But the number of people in the labor force rose by more than 11,000.
May's numbers are the first that reflect people who lost jobs following the late April tornadoes. A study by the University of Alabama's Center for Business and Economic Research estimated that the April 27 storms cost from 5,600 to 13,200 jobs, at least temporarily, although rebuilding efforts are expected to eventually result in a job gain.
"We knew that the devastating storms we suffered in April were going to have an impact on unemployment," said state Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees. "I'm not going to go so far as to say that the entire increase can be attributed to the storms, but they're certainly a major factor."
Surtees also said the national economy was affecting the state. The national unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent in May, from 9 percent in April.
Jobless rates fell in 24 states, rose in 13 states, and were flat in 13 states, said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nevada still had the highest unemployment rate, at 12.1 percent. North Dakota still had the lowest, at 3.3 percent.
Unemployment rose in every southwest Alabama county. However, county-level jobless rates are not adjusted to cancel out predictable seasonal fluctuations, unlike state and national rates. Thus, unlike the broader measures, county-level rates often spike in May and June, when students and teachers look for work.
Jobless rates were higher than a year ago in 51 of Alabama's 67 counties. In southwest Alabama, only Monroe and Conecuh counties had lower jobless rates last month than in May 2010.
Mobile County's unemployment rate rose to 10.6 percent in May from 10.2 percent in April. Officials reported about 20,300 jobless people in the county, up more than 900 from April. The number of people with jobs fell as the labor force grew.
Joblessness in Baldwin County rose to 8.5 percent from 8.3 percent in April. That level represents about 7,100 people looking for work. Jobs rose by 600 in Baldwin, but job-seekers rose by 900.
Wilcox County, still mired with the worst unemployment in the state, saw its jobless rate rise to 21.7 percent. Shelby County had the state's lowest jobless rate, 6.9 percent.
Officials measure the unemployment rate by asking people if they have a job. But each month, they also ask employers how many people are on their payrolls.
That survey found Alabama job numbers rose by 2,000 in May, when seasonally adjusted, but were 5,000 below the year-ago total. Last year's total was inflated by temporary Census workers hired by the federal government.
Sectors that grew from April included trade, transportation and utilities; other services and government. Shrinking sectors include finance and real estate as well as health care and social assistance.
Seasonally adjusted payroll employment in Mobile County was basically flat at 175,300 from April to May and also flat year-over year.

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