Etowah County Unemployment Drops

Etowah County’s unemployment rate declined for the second straight month, according to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations.

The county’s unemployment rate in March was 9.1 percent, down from the February level of 9.8 percent. The January unemployment rate was 9.9 percent.

The statewide unemployment rate also declined in March, according to ADIR, to 9.2 percent from 9.3 percent in February.

In March 2010, the state unemployment rate was 10.0 percent and Etowah County’s unemployment rate was 10.3 percent.

The national unemployment rate in March was 8.8 percent, down from 8.9 percent in February.

State Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees on Friday said a decrease is better than an increase, but the state still has nearly 200,000 people out of work.

Surtees said there are positive signs, such as such as the initial claims for unemployment in March being below the March levels in 2009 and 2010.

Etowah County’s civilian work force in March was 44,381. There were 4,034 people in the county unemployed in March, down from 4,348 in February.

Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority, said the local economy largely is contingent on the national economy. He said the area has, for the most part, been fortunate over the past couple years as unemployment has been lower than the state and national rate.

“We’re going to do everything we can to keep it on a downward trend,” McCain said.

He said project activity has been increasing and the IDA is working on several possibilities, including two on which it is a finalist. Two prospects also will be visiting later this month, which McCain said is encouraging.

McCain said it remains hard for companies to get financing for projects, and that’s hurting the economy.

Other Northeast Alabama counties saw significant drops in their unemployment rates in March, according to ADIR.

The Alabama counties with the lowest unemployment rates for March were Shelby at 6.7 percent, Coffee at 6.9 percent and Pike at 7.5 percent. The counties with the highest rates were Wilcox at 20 percent, Monroe at 16 percent and Perry at 15.8 percent

By Andy Powell
Times Staff Writer