Alabama jobless rate rises to 6.4 percent

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s unemployment rate rose to 6.4 percent despite improvement nationally, leaving the state with the third-worst jobless rate in the United States, according to reports released Monday.

State statistics showed the January rate was up one-tenth of a percent from the December rate of 6.3 percent. It also was well above the year-ago rate of 6.1 percent.

Nationally, unemployment dropped to 4.7 percent in figures released last week. Only Alaska at 6.5 percent and New Mexico at 6.7 percent have higher jobless rates, according to new numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

State unemployment is rising because people are entering Alabama’s workforce faster than jobs are being created and filled.

Almost 10,000 people entered the state labor force last month but only 6,500 of them found work, making the unemployment rate go up, said Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington.

“When you have an increase in the labor force, and all of those people aren’t able to find work, you will see up an uptick in the rate,” Washington said in a statement.

The January number represented 141,268 unemployed people in the state, compared to 137,875 the month before. Still, overall employment rose by about 6,400 to 2.05 million.

Shelby County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 5 percent, while Wilcox County had the highest jobless rate at 17.1 percent. Among cities, the Birmingham suburb of Vestavia Hills had the lowest unemployment at 4.2 percent compared to 11.9 percent in the Mobile suburb of Prichard, which was worst.

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