County jobless numbers keep climbing

Published 10:00 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

Pike County’s jobless rate increased for the fourth straight month, leaving city and economic development officials surprised.

The Alabama Department of Industrial Relations released July’s unemployment numbers Friday, citing the county’s rate as 9.3 percent, which was up from June’s 9 percent rate.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said he hadn’t heard of any layoffs, and said he was surprised with the numbers.

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“I’m still surprised (unemployment) is in the nine range,” Lunsford said. “We’ve had some employment opportunities.”

Pike County Economic Development Director Marsha Gaylard said she, too, wasn’t aware of any major layoffs in the county.

“I’ve heard of a couple of businesses having to layoff one or two, but nothing major,” Gaylard said.

But the two did offer some insight into the increase.

According to Gaylard, if a Pike County resident works outside of the county, but loses his or her job it affects Pike County’s unemployment.

So, the county’s increase could be due to residents working in surrounding counties.

While, Lunsford said it’s just his speculation, the mayor questioned whether or not the minimum wage increase had anything to do with the increase in the numbers.

While the county did experience an increase it is still less than the state and national rates.

Alabama had 10.2 percent rate, while the nation had a 9.4 percent rate, and Pike County is ranked 59 out of 67 counties in terms of lowest unemployment rates.

Countywide 1,449 of Pike’s 15,847-labor force remained unemployed, and statewide 215,377 Alabama residents were without jobs in July.

According to the Department of Industrial Relations, July’s downturn resulted from seasonal losses in the educational component of local government in which the state’s non-agricultural wage and salary employment decreased by 12,900.

However, this sector was not the only sector experiencing losses, with financial services, construction, information, and education and health services also seeing losses.

While these sectors experienced losses, other sectors such as leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and manufacturing experienced gains.

“Although we still experienced an increase in our unemployment rate, it’s not nearly as large a gain as we have been seeing this year, on a month-to-month basis,” said Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees, in a release to media on Friday.

Pike County followed the trend, increasing slightly in July after increasing one percentage point each month in the prior three months.

“The important thing for unemployed Alabamians to remember is that there is help available to them, and we at the Department of Industrial Relations are here to make sure they receive all the benefits for which they qualify,” Surtees said.

Last week, the Alabama legislature passed a law that will add up to an additional 20 weeks of emergency unemployment benefits for Alabama residents who qualify. These benefits, which are federally funded, are available for those who have exhausted all 59 weeks of benefits on or after March 29, 2009.

Those who are eligible for the additional benefits will receive written notice from the Department of Industrial Relations no later than Aug. 28 and will be given specific instructions on how to file for the benefits.

The department created a phone number for unemployment claimants to call with questions. The number to contact is 877-409-1642.