Region’s unemployment rate decreases

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 24, 2005

REGION – As Alabama’s unemployment rates decline, the state’s Black Belt is following the trend.

Since August of 2004, unemployment percentages in Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry and Sumter counties have all decreased.

Greene County dropped from 10 percent to 6.1 percent, leaving only 223 residents unemployed. Hale County is currently leading the region at 4.8 percent from last year’s 7.6 percent, with 349 unemployed residents.

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Sumter County has 6.8 percent, or 339 unemployed citizens, down from 2004’s 11 percent.

Perry County has the highest in the region with 9.1 percent, or 330 unemployed residents, while Marengo County has decreased 1.2 percent with current unemployment rates of 5.5 percent, or 487 residents.

Although Shelby County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state with 2.7 percent, Jay Shows, president of the Demopolis Chamber of Commerce, said he believes Marengo numbers will decrease again once the new Wal-mart is completed.

“With the new Wal-mart, I look forward to our numbers being lower this time next year than they are now,” he said.

Shows said the county’s decrease could be credited to all area companies keeping their employees.

“Last year the number’s were around the time when Linden Lumber had laid off some people, but they eventually hired some of them back,” Shows said. “But no single industries have really contributed to the decrease.”

He also said it doesn’t take many new hires to influence the numbers since the labor work force is so much smaller than that of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.

“There was only a small growth,” he said. “But that makes a big difference.”

Although companies are bound to lay off employees or go out of business, Shows predicts a bright future for Marengo County’s industry and unemployment numbers.

“I stay in touch with most major industries in the area and I only see one or two of them closing in the immediate future because they don’t seem strong or stable enough.”