Employment Numbers Are Encouraging

The annual unemployment rate in Etowah County has been declining since 2009 and that trend will continue for 2013, according to Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority.

According to Alabama Department of Labor statistics, Etowah County’s unemployment rate of 5.5 percent in November was the lowest since June 2008 and means the yearly average, now at 6.6 percent, likely will be below 7 percent for the year, McCain said.

McCain said he looks at yearly unemployment rate averages for trends about the economy. The county’s average unemployment rate for the year peaked at 10.2 percent in 2009, at the height of the recession. It fell to 9.3 percent in 2010, 8.7 percent in 2011 and 7.2 percent in 2012.

“We’re well on the way to a 2013 annual average of under 7 (percent),” he said.

But while McCain called that “encouraging,” he noted, “Part of that is fewer people were seeking jobs and therefore were not counted as unemployed during the height of the recession. But we’re seeing improvement in that, too, because the labor force has been growing again.”

Etowah County’s average yearly civilian labor workforce was 45,486 in 2013, according to Department of Labor statistics, compared to 44,497 in 2009. Employment here has increased from a yearly average of 39,951 in 2009 to 42,476 in 2013.

McCain expects to see additional jobs created in 2014 by companies that announced expansion plans in 2013, such as Prince Metal Stamping, Fehrer Automotive and Decatur Plastics Products. He said Gadsden also is a finalist for two other projects on which decisions will be made in the first quarter of 2014.

“We’re working really hard to make those projects a reality for our community,” he said.

Another project that should affect the unemployment rate will be the opening of River Trace Shopping Center, scheduled for next summer. It will include a number of stores including Gander Mountain, Ross Dress for Less and the relocation of Hobby Lobby. Other stores are expected to be announced later.

By Andy Powell

Times Staff Writer