Alabama’s unemployment rate continued to drop in July, down to 3.3 percent from June’s 3.5 percent, according to the state Department of Labor.
Several northeast Alabama counties, including Calhoun, Talladega and St. Clair, all saw their unemployment rates dip as well.
Meanwhile, the civilian labor force in Calhoun County continues to grow. While the increments may not seem impressive — growing from 46,255 in July 2018 to 46,569 last month, a climb of 314 people — the important takeaway is that the labor force is stabilizing, explained Mark Hearn.
“We have been shrinking fairly steadily since 2009,” said Hearn, a professor of management at Jacksonville State University. “Over the last four years, from 2015 to 2018, we basically have stabilized around 46,000.”
St. Clair County saw a more pronounced increase in its labor force than Calhoun County, from 39,910 in July last year to 40,952 last month, amounting to 1,042 more people either employed or seeking employment. Talladega County also had a large increase in its workforce, from 35,179 in July last year to 36,041 last month, an increase of 862 workers. Cleburne County increased by 34 people over the last year, from 5,892 workers in its labor force a year ago to 5,926 last month.
Hearn said that while the labor force is growing, it isn’t doing so fast enough to match the employment demands of nearby companies. The pool of unemployed people is being drained to make up the difference, while wages climb higher to attract workers seeking promotions and new jobs.
Calhoun County’s unemployed population is higher than that of its neighbors; last month there were 1,647 people drawing unemployment and searching for work. Meanwhile, there were 1,266 unemployed people in Talladega County; 1,096 in St. Clair County and 174 in Cleburne County.
Calhoun’s slightly higher unemployment pool might be a positive when it comes to attracting business, however, because there is a potential workforce waiting to be tapped, said Hearn.
Don Hopper, director of the Calhoun County Economic Development Council, said companies want to know they’ll have a workforce to draw upon.
“The thing that’s heartening is when our local industries continue to grow,” Hopper said. “They grow here because they know they’ve got a good workforce. It’s one of the best things we tout to companies as they’re looking to relocate or expand in an area.”
Following is a comparison of unemployment rates in selected locales; the figure for July is listed first, followed by the figure for June.
Alabama, 3.3 percent, 3.5 percent
Calhoun County, 3.5 percent, 4.1 percent
Cleburne County, 2.9 percent 3.5 percent
St. Clair County, 2.7 percent 3.1 percent
Talladega County, 2.9 percent, 3.5 percent
Source: Alabama Dept. of Labor