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Butler County unemployment falls slightly

A Friday press release from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations shows employment in the state increased by 11,300 persons. State unemployment rates remained unchanged at 11.1 percent, while Butler County’s decreased slightly to 15.7.

In the release, director Tom Surtees credited the gains to growth in professional and business services, government, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, educational and health services.

“We are starting to see some consistent signs that our economy has begin a rebound,” Surtees said.

Surtees added that these employment gains were the first in three months.

Ricky McLaney, director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development, said things are getting better in Butler County.

“Unemployment dropped from 16.6 in January to 15.7 in February,” McLaney said. “Its good to see things heading in the right direction.”

McLaney said employment in the county has been increasing, though the numbers don’t reflect this change yet.

“The only thing we are picking up on now is that people are not drawing unemployment,” McLaney said. “There is a timeline before these workers who have been hired back will show up as employed in tax rolls.”

Alabama has 227,717 unemployed persons as of February. The total number of unemployed persons in Butler County is estimated to be 1335, McLaney said.

“If we subtract 200 from that number, which is a conservative estimate of the number of people Coastal Forest has hired back, we get an unemployment percentage of 13.4,” McLaney said, “That is probably a truer reading of unemployment in the area.”

Employment figures should show the new hires eventually, McLaney said. Though he used 200 hires as his estimate, he believes 265 is a more accurate number.

McLaney said Sourcecorp, which processes an estimated 4.5 million income tax forms in the state, is currently in the middle of their highest employment season. Coastal Forest has reopened their plywood mill, and the company plans to modernize and reopen a sawmill in May, which may add another 40 or 50 employees to the roll.

At 15.7 percent, Butler County has neither the highest nor the lowest unemployment rate in the state. Madison County currently has the lowest at 8.5 percent. Wilcox County, with 27 percent unemployed, is the state’s highest.