By Budd McLaughlin
Limestone County has the state’s third-lowest unemployment rate, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
According to data released Monday, the county’s preliminary January unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, which is up from 4.8 percent in December 2013 but lower than 6.5 percent in January 2013.
Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees said the increase from December to January is not unusual because seasonal layoffs after the Christmas shopping season were normal.
The state’s January unemployment rate is 6.1 percent, which is unchanged from December 2013 and below the January 2013 rate of 6.7 percent.
Shelby County has the lowest at 4.6 percent, followed by Lee County at 5.5 percent. Like Limestone County, Cullman County also is at 5.8 percent.
Other nearby county rates are: Lauderdale County, 6.5 percent; Lawrence County, 7.6 percent; Madison County, 5.9 percent; and Morgan County, 6.5 percent.
January’s rate represents 2,330 unemployed people in Limestone County, compared to 1,913 in December 2013 and 2,677 in January 2013. Statewide, there were 130,444 unemployed people in January, compared to 129,633 in December and 144,410 in January 2013.
Surtees said the state saw growth in the labor force and an increase in the number of people working, which are good signs.
“Looking at the seasonally adjusted numbers, we saw growth in both the labor force and the number of people working in Alabama in January, and those are positive signs,” he said. “Although the number of jobs reported decreased, this is a common occurrence in January, and is due, in large part, to retailers laying off seasonal help.”
The number of people working in Limestone County in January was 37,931, down from 38,037 in December. In Alabama, the number in January increased to 1,990,637 from 1,984,264 in December 2013 (seasonally adjusted). The Civilian Labor Force, or people who are either working or actively seeking work, increased to 2,121,081 from 2,113,897 in December 2013 (seasonally adjusted).
The number in Limestone County also increased, from 39,950 in December to 40,261 in January.
Wage and salary employment, which is the measure of how many jobs Alabama’s economy supports and is reported by employers, decreased 33,600 over the month. The losses were seen in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, primarily in retail trade, the leisure and hospitality sector, and the professional and business services sector, among others.
Over the past 12 months (January 2013-January 2014), wage and salary employment increased 20,400. Gains were due to increases in the leisure and hospitality sector, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, education and health services sector, and the manufacturing sector, among others.
Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 16.4 percent, Perry County at 13.2 percent and Bullock County at 12.7 percent.