Dale Greer

Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer touts local industry growth.

Record numbers of people are in the Alabama labor force and working, along with a record high job count and record low unemployment rate, according to May 2019 economic data.

But growing economy is always creating a strain on a workforce that in many areas of the state is at full capacity.

“Since day one, my administration has sought the best ways to make our state business-friendly for small businesses and attractive to world-class industry. It is certainly paying off because in May, each of Alabama’s 67 counties saw their unemployment rates drop,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “Alabama is breaking record after record. I am proud of the footing we are making; however, we will not tire our efforts. It remains our goal to ensure every Alabamian who wants a job can get a job.”

Cullman County’s unemployment rate dipped to 2.5 percent for May.

Cullman County Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer said the economic reports are exciting and that opportunities are continuing to grow locally and across much of the state. He also said a strategy will have to be developed soon to ensure that companies can continue to expand and hire they workforce they need.

“We have to look at the short-term and the long-term in this,” Greer said. “We have a lot of reasons to be glad about what we’re seeing with expansions and new investments. We’re seeing growth in just about every sector of the economy. But population growth is pretty much stagnant.”

Greer said about one-third of the state’s 67 counties experienced population growth in 2018, including Cullman County, but only a small amount.

“This is where we need a real strategy, something that can actually be done and not just talked about,” Greer said. “We’ve got to have incentives to get more workers to move into the state, including production workers who need moderate to affordable housing.”

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, down from April’s rate of 3.8 percvent, and well below May 2018’s rate of 4.1 percent. May’s rate ties with March and February 2019’s rates for the lowest unemployment rate in Alabama history. 

The number of people counted as employed in May rose to 2,150,481, another record high. The count represents a yearly increase of 40,720 people.

“Once again, Alabama’s job growth has surpassed the nation’s,” Washington said. “Our economy is supporting more jobs than ever before, and Alabama’s employers are continuing to hire. It’s our hashtag, but it’s true: we have jobs.”

Over-the-year job growth (May 2018-May 2019, not seasonally adjusted) in Alabama measured 1.9 percent, while job growth in the U.S. over the same time period measured 1.5 percent.

Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 38,800, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+8,900), the leisure and hospitality sector (+7,300), and the construction sector (+6,700), among others.

Wage and salary employment also increased over the month, growing by 7,100. Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+2,600), the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+2,000), and the government sector (+1,000), among others.

Additionally, the civilian labor force increased to 2,233,045 in May, representing its highest level ever. The civilian labor force represents the number of people, aged 16 and over, who are either working or looking for work, excluding the military and those in institutions.

All 67 counties experienced both over-the-month and over-the-year unemployment rate decreases.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 2.1 percent, Marshall County at 2.3 percent, and Morgan and Elmore Counties at 2.4 percent. Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 6.6 percent, Greene County at 5.7 percent, and Lowndes County at 5.6 percent.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 1.8 percent, Homewood at 1.9 percent, and Alabaster and Hoover at 2.1 percent. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 6.2 percent, Prichard at 5.4 percent, and Anniston at 4.1percent.

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David Palmer has decades of experience in the newspaper industry. He currently serves as editor of The Cullman Times.