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Area jobless rate rises slightly

Following a shaky 2005, the economic outlook for the state of Alabama and the Black Belt is off to an astoundingly fast start.

If figures from the first month of 2006 can hold steady, the economy is in prime position to see the lowest unemployment figures in some time.

Demopolis Industrial Development Board Executive Secretary Jay Shows said the improving numbers are due to a steady economy. He said construction of a new plant in a neighboring county should create an even more optimistic outlook for coming years.

“We’ve just seen a steady employment trend,” Shows said. “And with new plants like Louisiana Pacific opening in Clarke County a lot of people in south Marengo County will probably get jobs there too. That ought to help the picture in the future as well.”

Alabama’s numbers for January, Shows said, were strong regionally as well as nationally.

“The economy has been stable as a whole,” Shows said. “Unemployment for the state is at 3.8 percent which is almost unheard of. Normally, four percent is considered full employment.”

Speaking to local businesses, Shows said, was encouraging. Retail sales were steady in Demopolis and local plants are also running smoothly.

The numbers for Marengo County were higher across the board. The available workforce was up to 8,771 compared to 8.613 in January of 2005. Of that number, 8,334 were employed dropping the county’s rate of unemployment to 5 percent.

The lowest unemployment rate in the region was Hale County. Their workforce grew from 6,882 in January of 2005 to 7,047 one year later. Of that number, 6,730 were employed dropping the county’s unemployment rate to 4.4 percent.

Greene County also saw a significant change in their unemployment rate dropping from 8.1 percent a year ago to 6 percent. Sumter County also dropped their unemployment rate from 7.4 percent last year to 6.5 percent for January of 2006.

Perry County saw a decrease in unemployment from 9.5 to 7.6 percent, but also saw their available workforce drop from 3,596 to 3,484.