County jobless rate up

Published 11:22 am Monday, June 20, 2011

Escambia County’s unemployment rate headed in the wrong direction last month, rising from 10.5 percent in April to 11.3 percent in May.

The state jobless rate was up as well, rising from 9.3 percent in April to 9.6 percent in May.

The increase in the state’s rate was blamed partly on the impact of the April 27 tornadoes that ravaged north and central Alabama, said Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees.

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Surtees said the national unemployment rate and the historic nature of May’s unemployment rates — which rise as college and high school graduates enter the labor force.

Escambia County’s labor force increased from 14,606 in April to 14,721 in May. The number of employed persons, meanwhile, was only down by 11, from 13,075 to 13,064.

“While we are disappointed to report an increase of three-tenths of a point in our unemployment rate, we have to keep the big picture in mind,” Surtees said. “We knew that the devastating storms we suffered in April were going to have an impact on unemployment. This is something that we could not have foreseen. I’m not going to go as far as to say that the entire increase can be attributed to the storms, but they are certainly a major factor.”

A recently published study by the Alabama Center for Business and Economic Research indicates that the April 27 tornadoes “will initially reduce….employment by about 5,600 – 13,200 jobs or 0.2 – 0.5 percent.” The study goes on to further say that recovery activities will eventually create up to 51,700 jobs in the short term.