Gov. Kay Ivey announced today that the state's unemployment rate is now at its lowest level in nearly a decade.
Ivey, joined by Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington, announced the preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May was 4.9 percent, which is down from April's rate of 5.4 percent and the rate a year ago of 5.8 percent.
Alabama has consistently lagged behind the rest of the nation in its unemployment rate, but while still behind, now appears to be catching up. The U.S. unemployment rate for May was 4.3 percent. The drop in the unemployment rate this month follows a continued decline since the end of the Great Recession.
The rate, which was former Gov. Robert Bentley's target, was also the rate at which he said he would agree to accept a state salary after promising during his campaign for governor that he would refuse a salary as long as Alabama had a high unemployment rate.
The unemployment rate last month represents about 107,000 unemployed people in Alabama, down from 119,000 in April and more than 125,000 in May 2016.
More than 2,089,000 people are now employed in Alabama.
"May's figures represent the lowest unemployment rate in more than nine years and more people working now than in the last ten years,” Ivey said. “It is a team effort, and I sure am proud this rate decrease occurred during my first full month in office. We will continue to exhaust every effort and explore every opportunity until every Alabamian who wants a job, has a job.”
The last time Alabama’s unemployment rate was at or below 4.9 percent was back in March 2008 — before the drop into the Great Recession — when the common economic indicator measured 4.8 percent.
“Increased confidence in our economy is evidenced by not only that fact, but also that our employers are reporting the highest wage and salary employment numbers in almost a decade," Washington said. "In fact, this is the fourth-highest wage and salary employment count since we started keeping records in 1939.”
Most of the gains came from the manufacturing sector, the construction sector and the leisure and hospitality sector, which by itself saw a 6,100 increase in employment.
All metropolitan areas had rate decreases last months and over the course of this year so far. Only one county — Sumter County in West Alabama — experienced a rate increase last month.
“Several years ago, in the heart of the recession, it wasn’t uncommon to see more than half of our counties with double-digit unemployment rates, particularly in the rural counties," Washington said. "Today, only one county has double digit unemployment, and its rate has dropped by two full percentage points over the year."
Shelby County at 3.1 percent, Elmore County at 3.4 percent and Cullman County at 3.5 percent were the counties with the lowest recorded unemployment rates.
Wilcox, Clark and Lowndes Counties had the highest recorded unemployment rates.
The Auburn-Opelika metropolitan area is tied for the second-lowest unemployment rate last month, measuring in at only a 3.7 percent unemployment rate. The Daphne-Fairhope-Foley metro area was the only area with a lower unemployment rate, measuring in at 3.6 percent.