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Jobless rate remains steady

Escambia County’s unemployment rate was nearly level in May, up slightly to 4.2 percent from 4 percent in April.

In May there were 13,971 people employed in Escambia county, with 609 being unemployed.

The civilian workforce has grown to 14,850.

Statewide, Alabama’s wage and salary employment measured 2.04 million in May, at 10-year high.

The last time it measured at or above this level was in December 2007, when it measured

2,045,800.

“Wage and salary employment in Alabama continues to increase significantly month after month,” said Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “This month’s count is the second largest we’ve ever recorded,

yielding only to pre-recessionary numbers. It represents the most jobs our economy has

supported in more than a decade. Employers are hiring in Alabama, jobs are available in

Alabama, and people are working in Alabama.”

Locally, Coastal Gateway Regional Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Will Ruzic said that workforce is the No.1 issue across the board in this region.

“We consistently have between 500 and 700 unfilled jobs each month just in Escambia County,” he said. “Most of our major employers remain in hiring mode almost on a daily basis.”

Ruzic said his organization has shifted much of its focus to workforce development.

“We must make sure our existing industries have the tools and resources available to address workforce needs and insure sustainability,” he said. “Recruiting new industries and new jobs becomes much easier when your employers are satisfied with the workforce pipeline and feel confident they will be able to meet their needs moving into the future.”

Ruzic that while it is currently a low unemployment environment – at 4.2 percent – there are still workers hoping to find employment.

“We have go to find a way to help them understand what may be available in the way of employment,” he said. “We are currently coordinating a series of job fairs across our region to hopefully bridge the gap in those looking for employment and those hiring. If there is a lack of understanding of what’s available, we need to address that issue. If there is a lack of skills in our unemployed, the we need to address that issue as well.”

Ruzic said there are resources available through our career centers and the community college system for additional training, much of it at no cost.”

Additionally, Ruzic said they are working with Governor Kay Ivey’s newly realigned workforce councils, which he said will have additional resources available to help strengthen the workforce pipeline and available training.

Ivey recently announced her Success Plan initiative, which is aimed at providing additional training in the state to help meet workforce needs, Ruzic said.

Ruzic said the issues facing Escambia County are nationwide issues.

“These issues are nationwide, but become increasingly difficult in rural areas, where the population is less dense and in some cases declining,” he said. “However, our region has proven to have a strong work ethic and a willingness to roll our sleeves up and address these issues. Much of our recent growth and success, whether it be new industries or expansions, is due in part to our communities and partners across our region working together to address our needs as we grow into the future. We hope to continue to improve that process so all our industries feel confident in their workforce pipeline.”

Over the year, statewide wage and salary employment increased 21,600, with gains in the manufacturing sector (+4,600), the leisure and hospitality sector (+4,400), and the professional and business services sector (+4,000), among others.

Wage and salary employment increased in May by 7,000. Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+2,300), the manufacturing sector (+1,800), and the education and health services sector (+1,300), among others.

“We know that our economy is supporting record numbers of jobs, and we also know that

Alabamians are working in record numbers – the most in more than 11 years,”

Washington said . “Twenty-one thousand more people are working now than they were last year. That means more Alabamians are supporting their families, and spending money in their

communities.”

Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate is 3.9 percent, an increase from April’s rate of 3.8 percent, and well below May 2017’s rate of 4.6 percent. In May, 2,091,439 people were counted as employed, up 5,081 from April, and up 21,277 from May 2017. May’s rate represents 85,634 unemployed persons, compared to 83,151 in April and 98,713 in May 2017.

The last time employment measured 2,091,439 or more was in April 2007, when it measured

2,091,857.

“It is not uncommon to see a slight increase in the unemployment rate in May,” said Washington.

“As graduates and students enter the workforce, some for the first time, they may not find jobs immediately, and it can contribute to a rate increase.”

Shelby County had the lowest rate at 2.7 percent , while Wilcox County is the highest at 8.9 percent.