Butler County jobless rate increases slightly

Published 7:22 pm Friday, January 20, 2017

Butler County’s unemployment rate climbed by half a percentage point from 6.4 percent in November 2016 to 6.9 percent in December, according to the latest from the Alabama Department of Labor.

The same holds true for the state at large, on average, as Alabama Department of Labor secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced Friday that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate now sits at 6.2 percent, up from November’s revised rate of 5.9 percent, and below December 2015’s rate of 6.3 percent.

Similarly, Butler County’s unemployment rate is still significantly lower than it was a year ago, with last month’s figure of 6.9 percent being dwarfed by December 2015’s rate of 7.4 percent.

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Butler County’s December unemployment rate represents 628 unemployed people, up from 586 in November.

Washington suggested that the overall drop in statewide unemployment figures was due to having a much larger pool of potential workers to draw from moving from November to December.

“Our unemployment rate rose in December because the labor force grew by nearly 9,000 in one month,” Washington said.  “This represents the largest labor force Alabama has seen in more than five years and indicates confidence in the job market.  We also surpassed last month’s employment numbers, making December the month to beat.  More people were working in December than at any time during 2016.  We actually haven’t seen this many people working since April 2008.”

While the seasonally adjusted statewide civilian labor force grew statewide–2,203,251 people were counted in the state’s labor force in December, which is the highest in five years–the same didn’t hold true for Butler County. 

In November 2016, 9,146 people represented Butler County’s civilian labor force.  That number fell to 9,068 in December 2016, which is just one person shy of figures from the same time a year ago.

Butler County’s slight downward trend is consistent with that of neighboring counties.  Crenshaw County enjoys a slightly lower unemployment rate overall, but it also rose from 5.8 percent in November 2016 to 6.1 percent in December 2016.  Unlike Butler County, Crenshaw County’s job market was better off a year ago as the county boasted an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent in December 2015.

Lowndes County sat at an even 10 percent in November 2016, but that number similarly climbed to 10.4 percent in December 2016.  Both of those figures are noticeably lower than December 2015’s figure of 10.7 percent, however, which would suggest that Lowndes County’s jobless rate has improved in the past 12 months.

“As far as wage and salary employment goes, we continue to experience record numbers,” Washington added.  “The economy supported the second-highest number of jobs for the entire year, and this December marks our third-best December in over the past 12 years.”

In the past year, wage and salary employment increased 18,600 statewide, with gains in the manufacturing sector and the government sector, and the financial activities sector among others. 

December’s wage and salary employment measured 1,983,600, which was higher than every other month in 2016 except November’s count of 1,991,000.

Shelby County, Elmore County and Cullman County represent the state’s lowest unemployment rates with 4.3 percent, 4.8 percent and 4.9 percent respectively.

Wilcox County, Clarke County and Green and Perry Counties hold the state’s highest unemployment rates with 15.6 percent, 11.1 percent and 10.5 percent respectively.