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Alabama unemployment continues decrease in May

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Alabama’s unemployment rate was 3.4% in May, down from 3.6% in April and 7.9% in May 2020.

The new number represents a continued decrease from a pandemic-high of 13.2% in April 2020. Prior to COVID-19-related shutdowns of businesses, the state’s unemployment was in the 2% range.

May’s rate represents 75,458 unemployed persons, compared to 79,319 in April and 174,680 in May 2020. May’s unemployed count is the lowest in 2021, a release from the Alabama Department of Labor today said.

“Our record-breaking streak is continuing in May, and we hope that it continues throughout the rest of the year,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in the written statement. “Yet again, we’ve dropped our unemployment rate and each month we are getting closer and closer to our pre-pandemic record low unemployment rate of 2.6%. Our economy is adding jobs, and earlier barriers to joining the workforce have been significantly reduced. In fact, there are more job postings than there are people counted as unemployed! Alabama is, once again, open for business.”

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said May had record-high wages representing an almost $67 per week over-the-year increase.

“Both the leisure and hospitality and manufacturing sectors are showing record high wages as well, with significant yearly increases,” Washington said. “The economy is responding as we expected to labor force fluctuations brought about by the pandemic.”

The average weekly earnings for the private sector rose to a new record high of $974.12, up $66.91 over the year. The average weekly earnings for the leisure and hospitality sector also rose to a new record high of $387.36, up $27.55 over the year.  The manufacturing sector’s weekly wages rose to $1,209.84, up $191.04 over the year.

Today, the state ends participation in all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs. Ivey announced that stoppage last month, citing low unemployment numbers and some businesses’ struggles to find workers as reasons for ending the extra benefits.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates were: Shelby, 1.8%; Blount, 1.9%; and Marshall, Franklin, and DeKalb, 2%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were: Wilcox, 8.8%; Lowndes, 8.2%; and Perry 7%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were: Alabaster, 1.7%; Hoover and Madison, 1.9%; and Vestavia Hills, 2%.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were: Selma, 7%, Prichard, 6.5%; and Bessemer, 5.2%.

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