Graduation spikes jobless rate

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

High school and college graduations — and the April tornadoes — brought higher unemployment rates in May, economic development officials said.
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.
Jim Searcy, director of the Coastal Gateway Economic Development Alliance, said the local jobless rate increase is mainly because of an increase in the labor force.
“This is a seasonal anomaly,” Searcy said. “The student population is now in the workforce.”
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.
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.
In the Coastal Gateway region — the alliance includes Escambia, Monroe, Conecuh, Clarke and Choctaw counties — Clarke County has seen several plant openings in recent months.
Searcy said that activity is good for the entire region.
“I feel like we’re starting to see some activity and interest in the entire area,” he said. “Economic development is not an event; it’s a process.”
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.