Chambers County reached a seven-year best 5.8 percent unemployment rate in the month of October, but the news got even better last Friday when the Alabama Department of Labor announced that the county rate fell even further to 5.5 percent for the month of November.
November’s rate is the lowest Chambers County has had since May of 2007, when the unemployment was 4.8 percent.
The average unemployment rate for Chambers County in 2007 was 5.6 percent, but the county started feeling the effects of the textile plant closures in 2008 when the rate skyrocketed to 12.8 percent. It rose to an average of 17.7 percent in 2009, peaking at 19.1 percent in February of that year.
The county battled through four years of double-digit unemployment rates, before it dropped to 9.0 percent in 2012.
Last month’s rate is the first time since the textile shutdowns that Chambers County has fallen below the 2007 average and signals that the area has finally fully recovered from the massive job losses that occurred.
Chambers County’s November rate represents 797 unemployed individuals compared to October’s when there were 848 unemployed. It’s also below the 912 unemployed in November 2013 when the rate was 6.2 percent.
There were 13,703 employed individuals in November, which is actually less than the October figure of 13,805. This is because the civilian labor force declined from 14,653 in October to 14,500 in November. Chambers County’s civilian labor force was 14,700 in November 2013.
Looking back to May of 2007, Chambers County had a civilian labor force of 15,384 with 14,648 employed individuals and 736 unemployed.
Compared to surrounding counties, Chambers County’s rate was once again favorable. The county ranked 44th in unemployment for the second consecutive month out of Alabama’s 67 counties, which is above the 2013 average ranking of 32nd.
Lee County was the only neighboring county with a lower rate than Chambers, with a rate of 4.2 percent, ranking 66th in the state. Randolph County posted a 5.7 percent unemployment rate, ranking 40th in the state. Tallapoosa County ranked 26th with a 6.5 percent rate; Clay County was at 6.5 percent, ranking 25th, Russell County was at 6.9 percent, ranking 19th, and Macon County ranked 17th with a 6.9 percent rate.
Chambers County’s rate reflected statewide trends. Alabama’s unemployment dropped to 6.0 percent from October’s rate of 6.3 percent. That’s the lowest statewide rate in more than six years.
All 67 Alabama counties saw either no change or a drop in their unemployment rates this month. Additionally, 84% of the counties have lower unemployment rates now than they did one year ago. Chambers County was one of 35 counties to have a lower rate than the statewide figure of 6.3 percent.
“Alabama’s unemployment rate has not only continued its downward trend, but has reached a level we have not seen in more than six years,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “Additionally, we continue to see strong growth in wage and salary employment, which is also at its highest point in nearly six years. This is a testament to the economic progress we have made in Alabama, and our efforts will continue until every Alabamian who wants a job has the opportunity to acquire one.”
Over the year, statewide wage and salary employment increased 33,700, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+11,100), the leisure and hospitality sector (+8,900), the manufacturing sector (+7,400), and the construction sector (+4,700), among others.
Wage and salary employment grew in November by 7,700 to 1,954,400. Monthly gains were seen in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+6,200), the education and health services sector (+1,500), and the government sector (+1,100), among others. The last time wage and salary employment was at or above the current figure was December 2008, when wage and salary employment totaled 1,964,400.
The annual increase in wage and salary employment represents job growth of 1.75%, the highest since June 2006, when it was 2.21%.
“The job growth we are experiencing in Alabama is encouraging,” Alabama Department of Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington said. “What is even more encouraging is that of the sectors in which we are experiencing the most growth, three sectors have average annual salaries of more than $45,000. These are good, high paying jobs that are helping Alabama families grow and succeed.”
Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 3.8 percent, Lee and Cherokee Counties at 4.2 percent, and Cullman County at 4.3 percent. Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 12.2 percent, Bullock County at 11.8 percent, and Dallas County at 10.7 percent.