Walker unemployment rises to 5.9 percent

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In the last county unemployment figures before the Nov. 3 General Election, Walker County's rate rose from 5.4 percent in August to 5.9 percent in September, while neighboring Cullman County was the lowest in the state at 3.8 percent. 

According to statistics released Friday from the Alabama Department of Labor, Walker County's rate was still higher than the 2.8 percent county rate posted for September 2019. 

The national rate declined from 8.4 percent to 7.9 percent in September; that was higher than the 3.5 percent posted a year earlier. The state rate was 6.6 percent, rising from 5.6 percent in August and 2.7 percent in September 2019. 

Walker County had an estimated 1,469 people unemployed in September, out of a civilian labor force of 24,801. That was an increase from the 1,350 unemployed estimated in August and 696 unemployed a year earlier. The labor force fell from 25,086 in August and and 25,184 a year earlier. 

September unemployment rates for surrounding counties included Blount, 4 percent, up from 3.6 percent; Cullman, 3.8 percent, up from 3.5 percent; Fayette, 4.6 percent, up from 4.2 percent; Jefferson, 7.3 percent, up from 6.5 percent; Marion, 4.9 percent, up from 4.1 percent; Tuscaloosa, 6.8 percent, up from 6.2 percent; and Winston, 4.7 percent, up from 4.1 percent. 

Wilcox County had the highest county rate in September at 17 percent, while eight counties had double digit jobless figures. A total of 31 out of 67 counties had unemployment higher than 6 percent; Walker County was ranked 32nd highest. Jefferson County was 18th highest, while Tuscaloosa was 23rd highest. 

Cullman was the lowest in the state, one of only four counties below 4 percent and 20 below 5 percent. It had been at 2.2 percent a year earlier. 

Blount County was eighth lowest in the state, followed by Fayette at 14th lowest and Winston at 15th lowest and Marion at 20th lowest. 

The monthly unemployment rate for Walker County this year - which, like other areas, has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that started in March - has been as follows: January, 3.9 percent; February, 3.3 percent; March, 3.4 percent; April, 12.9 percent; May, 8.8 percent; June, 7.9 percent; July, 7.7 percent; August, 5.4 percent; and September, 5.9 percent. 

Both Walker and Winston counties averaged 3.3 percent in 2019, ranking 31st and 32nd in the state for the year, respectively. 

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said in a release Friday that September’s state rate represents 148,912 unemployed persons, compared to 125,855 in August and 61,495 in September 2019.

“As we continue to gauge the economic impacts of this pandemic, we expect to see fluctuations in our unemployment rate,” Washington said. “In September, we saw fewer people entering the labor force, fewer people working, and more who were counted as unemployed.  All of those factors will increase the unemployment rate.  We will continue to work with employers and the unemployed to put Alabamians back to work.

“We did see an increase in the number of jobs the economy is supporting, with a gain of a little more than 9,000. We hope to see hiring pick up over the next couple of months as we approach the holiday season.”

Wage and salary employment grew in September by 9,300.  Monthly gains were seen in the government sector (+6,100), the professional and business services sector (+4,500), and the education and health services sector (+2,400), among others.  Over the year, wage and salary employment decreased 70,800, with losses in the leisure and hospitality sector (-29,400), the education and health services sector (-19,300), and the government sector (-7,800), among others.