Regional jobless rates take hit|Plant closings affect rate
Published 4:57 am Tuesday, February 10, 2009
By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Escambia County’s jobless rate rose to 8.5 percent in December, among the highest in the state but among the lowest in the five-county economic development organization to which the county belongs.
The county and state unemployment rates have been rising steadily over the past 12 months, with the sharpest increases in the last quarter of 2008. The county’s jobless rate in December — which is not seasonally adjusted — reflects that of 14,395 people in the labor force, 1,229 are unemployed.
While no major layoffs or plant closings have occurred in Escambia County, neighboring counties that employ local residents have shut down. Monroe County — which had an unemployment rate of 11.6 in December — saw job losses totaling 700 in recent months.
Monroe and Escambia counties, along with Conecuh, Clarke and Choctaw counties
Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority director Wiley Blankenship said one of the problems for counties within the EDA group is a lack of diversification. Most industries rely on forestry and related markets.
Counties don’t need to abandon the industries they have, but industries and economic development officials need to look at broader markets and at new opportunities in other industries, Blankenship said.
Escambia County’s jobless rate has risen from 5.9 percent last January to 8.5 percent in December, up nearly a point from the November rate of 7.6 percent.
Conecuh County averaged 8.3 percent in 2008, with the jobless rate at 11 percent in December, up from 10.1 percent in November. But with under 5,000 people in the labor force, a change of just a few jobs has a big effect on the unemployment rate.
Clarke County averaged an 8 percent unemployment rate in 2008, with a December rate of 9.8 percent.
Choctaw County was at 8.4 percent unemployment for December, with an average rate over the past 12 months of 7.4 percnet.
Alabama posted a jobless rate of 6.7 percent in December, up from 6 percent in November and 3.7 percent in December 2007.