— From staff, wire reports
Alabama’s jobless rate dipped again in December to 7.1 percent, down nine-tenths of a point from a rate of 8 percent a year ago.
Limestone County, however, experienced a slight increase in the amount of unemployment claims, up one-tenth of a percent from 5.7 in November to 5.8 last month. Madison and Morgan counties saw their jobless rates fall from 5.5 to 5.7 percent and 6.3 to 6.1 percent, respectively.
The overall state rate was down from 7.5 percent in November and was below the national rate of 7.8 percent.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low last week, the Labor Department reported, the latest sign that the job market is healing. Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 37,000 to 335,000, a bigger decline than economists had forecast, according to financial data provider FactSet.
“We are encouraged to see our unemployment rate drop once again,” said Gov. Robert Bentley, who has vowed to not take his governor’s salary until the state unemployment rate reaches 5 percent. “Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen the total number of unemployed persons drop by nearly 22,000. Still, we must remember that many people are looking for work. Job creation remains my number-one priority, and I will continue working every day to bring more jobs to Alabama.”
Figures from the Alabama Department of Labor show annual gains in wage and salary employment were seen in the manufacturing sector (7,600 jobs added), the professional and business services sector (4,500 jobs added), the leisure and hospitality sector (3,400 jobs added) and the trade, transportation and utilities sector (2,500 jobs added).
“While the decrease in the number of unemployed persons is certainly welcomed, along with the other positive signs we’ve been seeing recently, we will continue to work to improve the employment picture in Alabama,” said Tom Surtees, state labor commissioner. “Governor Bentley and our Department of Commerce are working to bring jobs to the state, and the staff in our career centers will continue to work to help the unemployed and underemployed find the right career.”
Assistance in finding a job, writing a resumé and receiving educational or vocational training opportunities can be found at any of the state’s 47 local career centers. A listing of career centers can be found at www.joblink.alabama.gov.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.