Etowah County’s Unemployment Rate Drops Sharply

Etowah County’s unemployment rate in September fell to 7.6 percent from the August rate of 8.7 percent, a higher drop than any other county in Northeast Alabama, according to statistics from the Alabama Department of Labor.

The state unemployment rate also dropped in September to 8.3 percent from the August rate of 8.5 percent, after four months of increases.

Etowah County’s unemployment rate a year ago was 9.2 percent. The drop in September was the second straight monthly decline after three months of increases.

Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority, said it’s gratifying to see the decline in the county’s unemployment rate, which is lower than both the state and national rates.

“Yes it’s encouraging, (but) we still have way too many people that are unemployed and underemployed,” he said. “That part is discouraging, but the numbers are improving, which shows some light beyond the end of that metaphorical tunnel.”

McCain said project activity locally has shown a modest increase, but it’s from companies whose customers are requiring them to build new plants or expand existing ones.

“There are still a lot of companies around the U.S. that are sitting on a lot of cash and they say they’re not going to invest that cash in new facilities until the uncertainties about health care reform, tax reform and regulatory reform are resolved,” he said. “Those uncertainties will be more clarified after the November elections.”

Locally, McCain said, there are a number of good-paying jobs that are unfilled because skilled workers are unavailable. He said the faster people take advantage of training programs, the quicker the unemployment rate will drop.

The statewide unemployment figure for September represents nearly 178,000 Alabamians looking for work, according to the state Department of Labor. That’s down from 183,000 the prior month.

Alabama’s unemployment rate had been rising since measuring 7.2 percent in April, but September’s figure reverses that trend. However, it remains above the national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent for September.

The state unemployment rate was 8.8 percent a year ago.

The number of unemployed people in Etowah County dropped to 3,407 in September from the August level of 3,898. The county’s workforce was 44,795, up slightly from August’s 44,782.

Andy Powell
Times Staff Writer

The Associated Press contributed to this story.