August jobless rate drops

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 23, 2009

As Americans debate whether or not the country is emerging from the economic crisis, Pike County saw a small decrease in the number of jobless individuals last month.

August’s unemployment rate was down .3 percentage points to 9 percent from July’s 9.3 percent.

Countywide, 1,384 of the county’s 15,847-labor force were unemployed, which is down from the 1,449 unemployed in July.

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“I’m just proud. If it went down any, there’s hope it will continue to improve in Pike County,” said Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford.

Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage said that business is a little slow on his end of the county, but the manufacturing partners are doing good.

“It’s slow, but our manufacturing partners are doing well,” Ramage said. “We haven’t had any new businesses.”

Ramage also said he thought the county’s diversified economy helped keep unemployment down from the state and national average.

Statewide unemployment rose to 10.4 percent, which is up from 10.2 percent in July.

Alabama’s unemployment rate is higher than the current national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, which is the highest the country has seen since 1983.

Nationally, the House is taking up emergency legislation this week to help the millions of Americans who see no immediate end to their economic miseries.

A bill offered by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and expected to pass easily would provide 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits for more than 300,000 jobless people who live in states with unemployment rates of at least 8.5 percent and are scheduled to run out of benefits by the end of September, according to the Associated Press.

Critics of unemployment insurance argue that it can be a disincentive to looking for work, and that extending benefits at a time the economy is showing signs of recovery could be counterproductive.

Still, the president told students in upstate New York the country was emerging from the economic crisis.

“As we emerge from this current economic crisis, our great challenge will be to ensure that we do not just drift into the future,” said. President Barack Obama to students at Hudson Valley Community College in Rochester, N.Y.

“Instead, we must choose to do what past generations have done: Shape a brighter future through hard work and innovation.”

Critics could argue that the country may not be rising from the ashes yet, as millions still remain jobless and a high about one-third of those have been unemployed more than six months.

But, some 5 million people, about one-third of the unemployment list, have been without a job for six months or more, a record since data started being recorded in 1948, according to the research and advocacy group National Employment Law Project.

The jobless rate currently sets at 9.7 percent and is likely to hover above 10 percent for much of 2010.

Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said at the Finance Committee hearing that, according to Labor Department figures, 51 percent of unemployment insurance claimants exhausted their regular benefits in July, the highest rate ever.

“It is likely the exhaustion rate will continue to increase in coming months,” as the unemployment rate continues to rise, he said.

Three-fourths of the 400,000 workers projected to exhaust their benefits this month live in high unemployment states that would qualify for the additional 13 weeks of benefits under this bill, McDermott said.

“While every state in the country continues to struggle with high unemployment, I want the unemployed in Alabama to know that there is help available to them,” said Tom Surtees, Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director.

“There are many unemployment compensation extension programs and even more job training programs available. I’d like to encourage those who need help to take advantage of these opportunities.”

Congress has passed two unemployment compensation benefit extensions over the past several months, and last month, Gov. Bob Riley signed a law entitling qualified unemployed Alabamians to up to an additional 20 weeks of unemployment compensation benefits.

This means that Alabamians are now eligible for up to 79 weeks of unemployment compensation benefits.

The counties with the highest unemployment rates were Wilcox at 25.4 percent, Dallas at 21.3 percent and Conecuh at 19.9 percent, and the lowest were Shelby and Madison at 7.6 percent, Coffee at 8.5 percent and Baldwin and Lee at 8.7 percent.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.