County’s jobless rate falls, more jobs on the way

Published 1:55 pm Monday, November 25, 2013

The Alabama Department of Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees announced Alabama’s September unemployment rate and October’s preliminary rate last week, and Butler County’s numbers dropped from August to September and from September to October.

Butler County’s jobless rate is now 9.1 percent, down from 9.3 percent in September, and 10.4 percent in October of last year.

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said the figure, while still too high, is encouraging.

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“I’m encouraged,” he said. “That’s nearly a 1.5 percent drop from this time last year. Don’t get me wrong, 9.1 percent is still too high, but we’ve been at 16 percent and 18 percent before. It looks like we’re heading in the right direction.”

McLendon attributed the drop in part to recent hirings at Coastal Forest Products in Chapman and Hwashin America and Hyundai Hysco in Greenville.

“When you’re talking about Butler County, a percent point is basically 100 people, so we’re basically talking about somewhere around 130 people that have jobs now that didn’t have jobs at this time last year.”

McLendon said more job opportunities are coming to Greenville.

“We’ve got more jobs coming with Wintzell’s (Wintzell’s Oyster House),” McLendon said.

According to Bob Donlon, Wintzell’s Oyster House CEO, the restaurant would likely employ 125 workers at its Greenville eatery.

Donlon said he expects the restaurant to open in April of 2014.

Earlier this month officials with Country Place Senior Living held a groundbreaking ceremony for a 24-suite assisted living facility that is expected to open in Greenville in May.

It is expected to employ 15-20 people.

“We’ve still got work to do, but I think these numbers that were released and the things that we have in the works right now show that we are headed in the right direction,” McLendon said.

In September, the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.4 percent, up from August’s revised rate of 6.2 percent. This represents 136,716 unemployed persons, up from 134,287 in August, and significantly lower than the 157,360 reported unemployed in September 2012.

October’s preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 6.5 percent. October’s rate represents 138,029 unemployed persons, up from 136,716 in September, and, again, significantly lower than the 152,957 reported in October 2012.

“This is a unique situation in that 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.

“Our department estimates that there are approximately 40,000 federal employees in Alabama. During the shutdown, nearly 2,000 filed initial unemployment compensation claims, but thousands more did not. Whether they didn’t file because they knew they would be later paid, or for some other reason, we can’t really know. 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.”

Counties with the highest unemployment rates in October were Wilcox at 15.5 percent, Bullock at 13.2 percent, and Dallas at 13 percent.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates were Shelby at 4.3 percent, Lee at 5.1 percent, and Cherokee at 5.4 percent.