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Jobless rate on the rise

For the second consecutive month, Butler County’s unemployment rate inched upward, according to figures released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.

The county’s jobless rate for February was 7.7 percent, up from 7.6 percent in January and 7.4 percent in December.

Neighboring Crenshaw County also saw its unemployment rate tick up from 6.5 percent to 6.8 percent. However, neighboring Lowndes and Wilcox Counties — which are among the state’s counties with the highest unemployment — each saw their jobless rates fall. Lowndes posted an 11.4 percent rate for February, down from 12 percent, while Wilcox had a rate of 15.4 percent, down from 16 percent.

Statewide, the unemployment rate held steady at 6.2 percent, according to seasonally adjusted figures.

Seasonal adjustment refers to the practice of anticipating certain trends in the labor force, such as hiring during the holidays or the surge in the labor force when students graduate in the spring, and removing their effects to the civilian labor force.

“No change in the unemployment rate is good news this month,” Alabama Department of Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington said. “We continue to see high numbers of employed people, which again is topping 2 million. We have consistently seen over 2 million employed people for 21 straight months. Additionally, a high number of people are in the workforce, which tells us that people are confident in the labor market. People haven’t shown this level of confidence in the job market in over three years.”

Gov. Robert Bentley said he’s encouraged by the latest unemployment figures, but that there is still much work to be done.

“The momentum that we are seeing in our employment numbers continues to be encouraging,” Bentley said. “Our mission to provide all Alabamians with a job remains my top priority. The growth that we are consistently seeing, combined with the regular announcements of new jobs coming to the state, is helping us to achieve that goal. Our economy is supporting 106,900 more jobs now than when I took office in January 2011. But there’s still a lot of work to do, and I remain committed to doing that work.”

According to the figures released Friday, the number of people counted as employed in February was 2,033,386 (seasonally adjusted).  The last time this many people were counted as employed was in August 2008, when there were 2,042,834 employed.

There were 2,167,723 people counted in the labor force in February.  The last time this many people were in the labor force was in October 2012, when the number measured 2,167,852.

“Wage and salary employment continues to show growth as well,” Washington said. “Like January, this is our best February since 2008, with a job growth percentage of 1.25 percent – the second highest growth percentage of the last five years.”

Wage and salary employment measured 1,946,300 in February.  The last time it was at this level or higher during February was in 2008, when it measured 1,994,500.

The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby County at 4.7 percent, Elmore County at 5.4 percent and Lee County at 5.5 percent.

The counties with the highest unemployment rates are Wilcox, Clarke County (12.5 percent) Lowndes and Greene County (10.8 percent).