Dale Greer

Dale Greer.

Alabama’s economy continues to reach record levels as unemployment declines and wages increase, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Cullman County maintained its strong run over the past year, expecting to show again some of the largest investments and expansions statewide while carrying an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent in November, the state’s second lowest.

In November 2018, 2,128,082 people were counted as employed, an increase of 46,330 from November 2017. Wage and salary employment, which measures the number of jobs the Alabama economy is supporting, grew to 2,069,800, representing a yearly increase of 35,400 jobs.

“Business is booming in Alabama,” said Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We are continuing to shatter employment records month after month. Jobs are growing at a record 1.7 percent yearly growth rate. It’s a great time to be doing business in Alabama.”

Wage and salary employment grew by 1.7 percent from November 2017 to November 2018, tying with October 2018 and July 2015 for the largest over-the-year percentage growth in history. Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 35,400, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+11,900), the manufacturing sector (+10,200), and the education and health services sector (+3,200), among others, according to the state Department of Labor.

“As the labor market gets tighter with low unemployment, you see wage growth as companies work to retain employees or find new hires,” said Dale Greer, director of the Cullman County Economic Development Agency.

Greer said the outlook remains strong for Cullman County as the current year has seen numerous expansions and investments in the industrial and commercial sectors. He anticipates the areas’ ranking overall will be among the highest in the state.

“With the Mazda/Toyota project coming we are already getting inquiries from suppliers,” Greer said. “Anytime a major project is secured, the counties nearby stand to benefit. We’re just a short driving distance from where the plant will be located so we anticipate the interest will continue and hope we see more growth from our position.”

Wage and salary employment increased in November by 6,400. Monthly gains were seen in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+6,000), the education and health services sector (+1,700), and the government sector (+1,200), among others.

Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.0, down from October’s rate of 4.1 percent, and above November 2017’s rate of 3.8 percent. November’s rate represents 87,757 unemployed persons, compared to 89,745 in October and 81,970 in November 2017.

“Average weekly earnings continue to increase, with workers seeing an additional $34.76 per week in their paychecks,” Washington said. “Those working in the manufacturing sector also saw an increase in their earnings, with manufacturing weekly earnings at their highest level in history.”

Total private average weekly earnings increased to $838.89, up from $804.13 in November 2017, representing a $34.76 increase. This represents the second highest level in history, surpassed only by September 2018’s average weekly wages of $849.89.

Manufacturing earnings rose to their highest level in history, to $1062.18 per week.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 2.5 percent, Marshall, Madison, and Cullman Counties at 2.9 percent, and Morgan, Limestone, and Elmore Counties at 3.0 percent. Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 7.9 percent, Clarke County at 6.4 percent, and Dallas and Lowndes Counties at 5.8 percent.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Homewood and Vestavia Hills at 2.3 percent, Alabaster at 2.4 percent, and Northport, Madison, and Hoover at 2.5 percent. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 6.5 percent, Prichard at 6.1 percent, and Anniston at 4.7 percent.

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