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Job market may look brighter in county

Pike County’s unemployment rate sets at the lowest it’s been since the beginning of the year.

The April 2009 unemployment rate for Pike County was 7.1 percent, nearly as low as January 2009’s 6.8 percent.

The county rate dropped from 8.1 in March to 7.1 in April, which represents an increase of 173 jobs in one month.

Still, officials aren’t quite sure why unemployment reached such a peak.

“We talked to most of our industries,” said Pike County Economic Development Corp. President Marsha Gaylard. “We had a meeting with the industry advisory board, and they had let go of a few, but we couldn’t figure where there was a massive layoff anywhere.”

Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage agreed with Gaylard.

“While I haven’t checked with our biggest employers, I know that our larger ones have done fairly well,” Ramage said.

Overall Ramage said he didn’t know of any changes that would have affected the change in the unemployment rate, as far as Brundidge is concerned.

“I don’t know of anything major going on in this end of the county,” Ramage said.

Ramage said in Brundidge he knew the food processors were doing well but was unsure of how Wal-Mart was doing.

However, Gaylard said there are still several industries in the county not hiring, but some have stabilized and are not laying off employees anymore.

Whether this is an indication of a stabilizing economy has yet to be determined, but officials remain optimistic.

“ So hopefully this is an indication that the economy is stabilizing a little bit and businesses are feeling a little more comfortable,” Gaylard said. “I don’t know of anybody hiring a lot of people right now—a few here and there.”

“I just hope it continues,” Ramage said. “We’re doing pretty well.”

Still one of the contributing factors to the increasing unemployment rate over the past few months could be the fact that Pike County has a shared workforce with the surrounding counties.

“ We have a shared labor force with a lot of our other neighboring counties,” Gaylard said.

Despite the increase in the past months, Pike County is still the fifth lowest in unemployment in the state Gaylard said.

And Pike County isn’t the only place where unemployment could be improving.

For the first time in 18 months, Alabama’s unemployment rate has not increased, but it didn’t decrease either.

For the month of April, the state’s rate remained at 9 percent.

According to Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees, the steady month may be an indication of some economic relief.

“The fact that our unemployment rate has held steady since last month indicates that we may finally begin to see some relief from the recession,” Surtees said. “While we still have many in our state that are unemployed, we are starting to see increases in some job sectors and decreases in the number of jobs being lost throughout the month. Hopefully, these trends will continue.”

At the state level, 191,678 people were unemployed last month, but that’s 1,220 less than in March 2009.

According to the Department of Industrial Relations, while the state is still registering monthly job losses, the number of jobs lost is significantly lower than earlier in the year.

In January, the state lost more than 40,000 jobs, while in April the state lost more than 6,000, which is a more than 34,000 difference.