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Local unemployment rate drops in October

Published 4:42pm Monday, November 25, 2013

Unemployment rates for the month of October were released on Friday and, despite predictions that the unemployment rate would be going up over the next several months with the impending closing of the International Paper mill in Courtland, Franklin County’s rates had gone down.

Franklin County’s jobless claims dropped to 7.6 percent in October, down from September’s reported total of 8.0 percent.

That total represents 972 local residents who filed unemployment claims, which is a decrease from the 1,040 people who filed claims the previous month. It is also 63 fewer people than it was at this same time last year.

Alabama Department of Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees announced that Alabama’s preliminary October unemployment rate is 6.5 percent, which is slightly up from September’s seasonally adjusted rate of 6.4 percent, but significantly lower than last October’s rate of 7.1 percent.

October’s statewide rate represents 138,029 unemployed persons, up from 136,716 in September, and, again, significantly lower than the 152,957 reported in October 2012.

“This is a unique situation in that we have never experienced a reporting period quite like this one,” Surtees said.

“Obviously, the federal government shutdown impacted many jobs in Alabama. It also affected the numbers and how they were reported. Thousands of Alabamians were out of work in October due to the shutdown, and therefore affected our unemployment rate.

“Our department estimates that there are approximately 40,000 federal employees in Alabama. During the shutdown, nearly 2,000 filed initial unemployment compensation claims, but thousands more did not. Whether they didn’t file because they knew they would be later paid, or for some other reason, we can’t really know. When they file claims, they are traceable to some extent. The problem arose when the federal government conducted its monthly employment surveys and found discrepancies in the ways these federal government workers answered employment questions.”

The Census Bureau is responsible for conducting the survey to identify members of the workforce each month and to determine who is working and who is not.  This is known as the Current Population (CPS) or the household survey.

Another survey is conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, among employers to measure how many jobs are in the economy. This is known as the establishment survey.

In the household survey, some furloughed workers answered that they were unemployed, but not looking for work, as they currently held jobs.  This resulted in shrinking the labor force.  At the same time, the same federal government jobs were counted as current jobs in the establishment survey.

With the exception of three, all counties are showing a decrease in their October 2013 unemployment rate from October 2012, some with drops as high as one and a half percentage points.

The counties with the lowest unemployment rates in October are: Shelby County at 4.3 percent, Lee County at 5.1 percent and Cherokee County at 5.4 percent.

The counties with the highest unemployment rates in October are: Wilcox County at 15.5 percent, Bullock County at 13.2 percent and Dallas County at 13.0 percent.

In northwest Alabama, the reported totals were: Lauderdale County at 5.9 percent, Colbert County at 6.7 percent, Lawrence County at 7.1 percent, Marion County at 8.2 percent and Winston County at 9.0 percent.

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