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County rates still above state

Pike County unemployment rates remain comparatively low, despite the state average rising to a 26-year high.

As of December 2009, Pike County has the 4th lowest unemployment rate in the state at 8.6 percent, a full 2.4 points lower than the state average of 11 percent.

Pike County has helped anchor the rising statewide figure, which has been significantly driven up by Wilcox, Monroe and Dallas Counties, all of which suffer unemployment rates of more than 20 percent.

The state average, according to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, represents 225,596 out-of-work employees across 67 counties. A relatively modest 1,307 of those workers reside in Pike County.

Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage said that the county’s ability to weather the storm is due to its variety of industry.

“Our diversity has worked in our favor,” he said.

Ramage said that the county’s various employment opportunities in education, manufacturing and government sectors have allowed the unemployment rate to stay on par with comparable averages. The mayor explained that other, more economically one-dimensional counties have been hit harder “especially in West Alabama,” Ramage said. “They were tied to the Lumber Industry.”

Ramage said that the situation is still troublesome.

“It’s still bad for people without a job,” he said.

ADIR Director Tom Surtees issued a press release acknowledging the current difficulties.

“Although we became a little hopeful due to last month’s unemployment decrease, I think we all realize the reality of the economic situation in this country,” he said. “We are continuing to see Alabamians suffer from the recession and remain committed to serving them. During 2009, we distributed benefits exceeding $1.2 billion and will continue to assist the unemployed with all of the state and federal resources at our disposal.”

While Pike County is certainly enduring its own trying times, Ramage said that progress could be in its future.

“With a couple of our plants expanding we’re heading in the right direction,” he said. Ramage said that specifically, food production in the area picks up in March.

“Overall I think we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.