Holiday jobs lower area unemployment in November
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Dec 20, 2013 | 2778 views |  0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Calhoun County gained hundreds of jobs in November from growth in temporary holiday work but not much else, state statistics released Friday show.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the county's unemployment rate decreased to 6.1 percent in November from 7.3 percent in October. The drop was due mainly to the creation of 300 retail jobs. The county also gained about 100 jobs in the transportation and warehouse sector in November.

Alabama's average unemployment rate decreased slightly, to 6.2 percent in November from 6.4 percent in October.

Unlike the state figure, the unemployment rates for individual counties are not seasonally adjusted, meaning annual temporary jobs such as holiday retail work are not factored out of the data. Seasonally adjusted numbers give a clearer picture of the health of the job market.

"There is an increase in employment that goes on during every holiday season, but it may not last into the new year," said Robert Robicheaux, chairman of the department of marketing, industrial distribution and economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Still, the county's 6.1 percent November unemployment rate was lower than the 6.7 percent rate it had during the same month last year, indicating a slight improvement in the job market.

The state showed similar improvement, with a November unemployment rate that was 0.7 percentage points lower than it was in the same month last year.

"There is a consistent move in unemployment and that is a good sign," Robicheaux said.

Keivan Deravi, economist at Auburn University at Montgomery, disagreed, noting that while the unemployment rate shrank from November 2012 to November 2013, so too did the labor force.

The statistics show that the total number of employed Alabamians in November was more than 8,600 fewer than the number of employed in the same month last year.

"The unemployment rate went down, but that's mostly coming from the labor force dropping," Deravi said. "That's typically from discouraged workers not looking for jobs."

Deravi said the state is doing much better economically than it was during the height of the Great Recession, which began in 2007, but the recovery is still slow.

Nancy King Dennis, spokeswoman for the Alabama Retail Association, said her organization expects Alabama retail sales to hit $8.9 billion this holiday season, a 2 percent increase from the previous year.

"We've pretty confident about that ... we've had about 2 percent retail gains every month this year over those in the previous year," Dennis said. "The gain has not been a huge gain, but it's been pre-recession level spending."

The counties with the lowest November unemployment rates were Shelby County at 3.6 percent, Lee County at 4.5 percent as well as Cullman, St. Clair and Cherokee counties at 4.7 percent. The counties with the highest unemployment rates were Wilcox County at 13.9 percent, Bullock County at 11.9 percent, and Perry and Dallas counties at 11.1 percent.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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