County’s Jobless Rate Drops Yet Again

Etowah County’s jobless rate in December dropped to tie an all-time low and 2005’s rate here also set a record.

The state had a record-setting low rate in December, Gov. Bob Riley said.

“Alabama’s economy continues gaining strength and gathering momentum,” Riley said. “Unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been.”

According to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, Etowah County’s jobless rate in December was 3.5 percent, which tied the previous low of 3.5 percent in April 2000.

The county’s rate for the year was 4.6 percent, a record low, said Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority. The previous low was 4.9 percent, according to Alabama Department of Industrial Relations statistics. The rate peaked in February at 6.2 percent.

In December there were 1,621 people unemployed here, a drop from the November level of 1,684.

The county’s work force in December was 46,712, which was also down from the November level of 46,783.

McCain said the county’s rate was “remarkable” considering it had been only five years since the closing of Gulf States Steel. The plant’s closing in August 2000 resulted in the loss of about 1,700 jobs. He said it demonstrated that local officials have made the right decisions about how to reduce unemployment while recovering from the loss of a major employer.

McCain said with the drop in unemployment the IDA would be changing its focus by trying to bring in higher paying jobs to increase the per capita income.

The county’s jobless rate dropped slightly from the November rate of 3.6 percent and is a significant drop from the December 2004 rate of 6 percent.

The state rate in December was also 3.5 percent, a drop from the November rate of 3.6 percent. Most counties in Northeast Alabama also saw their rates drop in December.
By Andy Powell
Times Staff Writer