Unemployment rate rises

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 22, 2017

A rise in labor force numbers and a drop in employment led to a 1.5 percent jump in the county’s unemployment rate, according to numbers released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.

The unemployment rate in the county sat at 4.4 percent in May, but rose to 5.9 percent in June.

Marsha Gaylard, president of Pike County Economic Development (PCEDC), said much more goes into determining the unemployment rate than most might guess though.

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“We have a lot of people that work outside of Pike County,” Gaylard said. “If any of those get laid off, then they count in our numbers.”

Gaylard said the reverse is true as well. Many jobs in Pike County go to people that do not live inside of the county limits.

“You have to look at what’s going on in the counties around us,” Gaylard said. “There are a lot of things that can affect our unemployment rate.”

This is not a new trend for Pike County. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, June has seen unemployment numbers increase between 1 and 2 percent in the county for at least a decade.

When the numbers spiked last June, Gaylard explained that rates in individual counties are not “seasonally adjusted” like the state’s rate is.

“Seasonal adjustment adjusts for certain times during the year when temporary workers look for jobs, such as students do when they are out of school,” Gaylard said then. “Another example is when farmers need laborers to harvest their crops.  Anytime there is a large number of people that have applied for jobs but haven’t yet gotten one the unemployment rate will naturally go up.”

Former Troy mayor Jimmy Lunsford, who now works at the PCEDC, also postulated that professors off for summer break could skew the numbers.

One notable instance though last month that could play a factor into the numbers is the layoff of 160 employees at Sikorsky by August.

“We are diligently trying to help those who have been or are going to be laid off from the Sikorsky down-sizing,” Gaylard said. “There are a lot of opportunities out there. We’re trying to make sure they know how to apply for some of the jobs that are going to be created and that are already created by our existing industries. We have several existing industries that are hiring right now.”

Despite the jump from last month, the 5.9 unemployment rate is still the lowest the county has seen since 2008. The unemployment rate was 10.5 in June 2009 and has consistently declined over the course of the decade.

Gaylard said she expects the rate to get even lower as the year goes on.

“Even though it’s up right now, I feel like we will see it go down again in the next couple months,” Gaylard said.

The unemployment rate reflects 891 people out of work compared to 654 last month. That number is partially influenced by an increase of 113 people into the labor force, rising from 14,999 in May to 15,112 in June. It is also influenced by a loss in employment. Only 14,221 were employed in June compared to 14,345 in May.

“That’s not a bad number in my book, especially when we’re recruiting new companies to come in too,” Gaylard said.