Jobless totals spike

Published 9:56 pm Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The number of unemployed in Pike County has risen in the last month, but it’s still well-under a state average that has exceeded national rates.

In May, Pike County’s unemployment rates jumped to 8 percent, up from the prior month’s 7 percent total. That more than doubles the number of unemployed in one year’s time, rising from 3.5 percent in May 2008.

But, Pike County Economic Development Director Marsha Gaylard said those numbers might not reflect the local job market.

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“Our unemployment is affected by different counties,” Gaylard said.

“If they commute out of Pike County to Crenshaw County or Montgomery County (and lose jobs there), then that affects our unemployment rate. The unemployment follows the employee.”

Gaylard said those increases are likely coming from individuals who live in Pike County but work outside the county, since most local industries are not suffering.

“We have not had any significant layoffs or closings, and that’s the only thing we can attribute it to,” Gaylard said.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said the increase took him by surprise, as well.

“I was surprised we’re at 8 percent,” Lunsford said. “I don’t know what to attribute the continued rise to. I don’t really have any answers.

“We haven’t had any major closings in the last two to three months.”

But, the numbers didn’t catch Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage off guard.

“When you look at everything going on around us nationwide, looking at the economy and interest rates, its kind of the results of what you’re seeing,” Ramage said.

In Brundidge, Ramage said retail and construction work seems to be suffering the most, but industries are holding out, he said.

“As far as our industries, the bigger employers are doing alright,” Ramage said.

“Some of our other businesses related to building and retail are slowing, which probably contributes to our numbers.”

While local industries haven’t had major layoffs, Gaylard said she hasn’t heard of many hiring either.

“I’ve talked to several industries that were hiring a few people, but I don’t know of any large job openings right now,” Gaylard said.

The state average for May exceeded even the national jump, rising from 9 percent to 9.8 percent.

The Associated Press reported May’s national jobless average was 9.4 percent, the highest the country has seen in 25 years.

As for Alabama, 208,917 are reported as without jobs, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations.

Pike County’s 8 percent is still well below the highest unemployment rates in Alabama, which were 23.9 percent in Wilcox County.

Shelby County had the lowest, at 6.6 percent.

Still, no unemployment rates are good, Lunsford said.

“It’s horrible to have this type of unemployment in the state of Alabama and the county, as well,” Lunsford said.

“And, obviously when you have higher unemployment, there is less disposable income in the county and can reflect in tax receipts and (business sales).”