Alabama unemployment rate drops to lowest level since 2008

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Alabama’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since 2008 as the number of people with jobs grew, officials said Friday.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in May, down from 5.4 percent last month, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced at a Capitol news conference. Despite the improvement, Alabama continues to struggle with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

The new level would have allowed Ivey’s predecessor, former Gov. Robert Bentley, to take a salary for the first time, had he stayed in office.

Bentley made a 2010 campaign promise to forgo a paycheck until Alabama returned to “full unemployment,” a figure he defined as 5.2 percent. In six years in office, Bentley never collected a paycheck as the state struggled to shake off the impact of the great recession. Ivey became governor in April when Bentley resigned amid a push to impeach him over ethics allegations.

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said the state added 13,100 jobs in May, with nearly half of those coming in the leisure and hospitality sector. He said growing employment is a sign of increased confidence in the economy.

“Fifty thousand more people have jobs now than they did last year,” Washington said.

The state continued to see a wide disparity in the unemployment rates between counties. Shelby County had the lowest unemployment rate: 3.1 percent. Wilcox County had the highest: 10.9 percent.

Alabama continues to struggle with higher unemployment than most other states. Only 11 states in May had unemployment rates that were the same, or worse, than Alabama’s, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The nationwide unemployment rate is at a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.