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Unemployment rate on the rise

The preliminary unemployment numbers for Feb. of 2005 were released earlier in the week and the numbers were good for most Black Belt Counties. Greene, Hale and Sumter Counties were all able to hold steady on their January numbers while Perry County’s unemployment had a slight increase.

The news was not as good for Marengo County. Preliminary reports showed the unemployment of Marengo County jumping from 7 percent in Jan. of 2005 to 7.6 percent in February.

Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jay Shows said the rising numbers were likely an indication of more Linden Lumber unemployment claims surfacing.

“I think that primarily this is an indication of the unemployment claims from Linden Lumber just hitting us now,” Shows said. “I don’t know of any other businesses that have had layoffs so that is probably the case.”

Shows said it is tough to say whether or not the new businesses moving into Demopolis will have a large enough impact to overcome the rising numbers. However, the new Wal-Mart Supercenter could be a start.

“I would think the Wal-Mart Supercenter would employ a lot more people than the existing store,” Shows said. “That should have a positive influence, but we don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch.”

Greenville, Alabama, which recently made the jump from a regular Wal Mart to a Supercenter, saw a significant increase in the available jobs for their city. Store Manager Joe Mazzenelli said their employment more than doubled when the Supercenter opened.

“We went from 140 employees to 360,” Mazzeneli said. “Being in a rural area is also increased the tax revenue benefiting the city in a lot of other ways.”

The impact the Supercenter in Demopolis will have remains to be seen.

The state of Alabama showed an overall decrease in unemployment, which has been a continuing trend for the last year. The state was listed as having a 5.2 percent unemployment rate, a decrease from the 5.3 reported in January and a decline from last years 5.6 percent.

Greene County held steady at 9 percent, which was still an increase from the 8.7 percent they reported last year. An available workforce of 3,654 was reported with 3,324 holding jobs.

Hale County also held steady at 6.9 percent; however, their numbers indicated a decline from the 7.1 percent they reported a year ago. Hale County was listed as having an available workforce of 7,201 with 6,701 employed.

Sumter, like Hale, held fast with their 8.4 percent which indicated a nice decrease from last years 9.1 percent. Sumter had an available workforce of 4,936 with 4,522 holding jobs.

Perry County’s unemployment rate continued to rise as they were reported to have 11 percent unemployment. The number was an increase from the last reports 10.9 percent and the 9.5 percent reported at the same time last year. Perry’s available workforce was reported to be 3,601 with 3,205 holding jobs.

For the most part, the Black Belt’s numbers were comparable to the rest of the state. Unfortunately, Perry County was reported to have the states highest unemployment rate topping Wilcox County’s 10.9 percent.

Shelby County once again had the states lowest unemployment level at 3.7 percent.