According to the department’s report, the county’s unemployment rate decreased in September, not on account of new jobs but due mainly to teachers returning from summer break. However, the job market is still better than it was a year ago and some experts say the local economy will improve in the coming months as retail ramps up for the holiday shopping season.
Labor statistics indicate that the county’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent in September from 8.9 percent in August. The drop was due to the influx of approximately 775 jobs in September. However, 600 of those jobs were in the state and local education sectors, said Tara Hutchison, communications director for the state Department of Labor.
“That was where our biggest increase was — state teacher jobs,” Hutchison said.
Statistics show the government and education sector had the highest increase in jobs across the state in September, at 6.9 percent.
“Public sector employment is much more stable,” said Robert Robicheaux, chairman of the department of marketing, industrial distribution and economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Government jobs and teacher jobs, they don’t vary as widely as manufacturing and construction jobs do.”
The state had slight gains in other job sectors in September, including finance, retail and manufacturing. Alabama’s unemployment rate decreased to 8.3 percent in September from 8.5 percent in August.
“It’s just a little bit here and a little bit there,” James Cover, professor of economics at the University of Alabama, said of the state’s job growth. “There’s really not much of a change, to be honest.”
Robicheaux agreed that there was little change in the state’s economy between August and September.
“The whole national economy is stagnant right now,” Robicheaux said. “We’re not being shot with sunshine with just a slight decrease in unemployment.”
Cover noted that though the state’s economy is stagnant, it’s still better than it was a year ago.
“It looks a little better,” Cover said. “Things in the retail sector are looking better … it’s almost returned to its pre-recession peak.”
The recession hit in 2008, causing massive layoffs and a depression in the housing market.
Nancy King Dennis, spokeswoman for the Alabama Retail Association, said the state’s August retail sales were up 2.66 percent compared to the same month last year.
“It was the best August we’ve had in four years,” Dennis said.
Robicheaux said he expected retail to spur some temporary growth in the local economy as the holiday shopping season kicks in during the coming months.
“Retail may increase its temporary sales force by 25 or 30 percent,” Robicheaux said.
Dennis said many large chain retailers in the state have already started hiring more workers for the holiday season.
“If you want to apply for a retail job then now is the time to do it,” she said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.