State’s unemployment rate rises to 8.4 percent

Published 11:59 am Friday, March 27, 2009

MONTGOMERY — Alabama’s unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent in February, the highest mark in 22 years and more than double from a year ago.

State Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said Friday the rate was up from 7.8 percent in January, and there were 180,547 unemployed.

That’s more than double the 87,778 who were unemployed a year earlier, when Alabama’s rate was 4.1 percent.

The February rate is the highest in Alabama since the state measured 8.5 percent in January 1987, and it is above the national rate of 8.1 percent for the same month.

But Surtees said Alabama was better off that its neighbors. Florida had a 9.4 percent rate, Georgia 9.3 percent and Tennessee and Mississippi were at 9.1 percent.

“I know that to someone who is unemployed the fact that our unemployment rate is lower than those of our neighboring states may not mean much,” Surtees said. “However, the fact that our rate does continue to stay below the rates of other states in our region reflects the tremendous impact economic development has had in our state over the past several years.”

Counties with the highest unemployment rates in February were Wilcox at 21.5 percent, Chambers at 18.9 percent and Dallas at 18.5 percent. Counties with the lowest rates were Shelby at 6.1 percent, Madison at 6.2 percent, and Lee and Coffee at 7.0 percent.

In both Wilcox, the worst, and Shelby, the best, the unemployment rates are more than double what they were a year ago, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations.