Alabama tied for 2nd in unemployment drop

By Phillip Rawls

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 2:51 p.m. MST

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama's big unemployment drop in November tied the state for the second-largest decrease in the nation and gave Alabama the third-lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast.

That's a month after Alabama tied for the nation's biggest drop in October.

"This year has ended up being much better than we forecast. We hope the same story will be seen in 2012," said Sam Addy, director for the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama.

In October, Alabama's unemployment rate declined from 9.8 percent to 9.3 percent. That half-percentage point drop tied Alabama with Michigan and Minnesota for the biggest declines in the nation.

In November, Alabama's rate went down again to 8.7 percent, which is the lowest since February 2009. The drop of 0.6 percentage points tied Alabama with Minnesota, South Carolina and Utah for the second-biggest drop. Michigan was No. 1 at 0.8 percentage points, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Alabama's drop resulted from more people finding jobs and from some people ending their job hunts, which means they were no longer counted as unemployed.

State Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said Alabama is getting close to the national average of 8.6 percent and is tied for 33rd among the states. Alabama used to be several spots lower.

Surtees attributes the improvement, in part, to Alabama's auto plants and suppliers hiring workers and returning to full production schedules. "The automotive industry is coming out of some tough times," he said Wednesday.

During November, all of Alabama's neighboring states had unemployment rates higher than Alabama's. Across the Southeast, the only lower states were Louisiana at 6.9 percent and Virginia at 6.2 percent.

Alabama's employment has grown by 38,600 jobs since January. That's more than double what some economists were forecasting at the start of the year.

Addy said the positive change is reflected in the state collecting more income tax from individuals because more people are working. According to the state Revenue Department, individual income tax collections for this fiscal year are running 3.45 percent ahead of the same period last year.

Some proponents of Alabama's tough immigration law are crediting the law with helping, particularly in counties with large Hispanic populations.

Athens brick mason Carlos Franklin told WAFF-TV that his business has picked up since the law took effect in late September. "We've been getting calls from different people that are scared of using illegals. And that's been putting us back to work," Franklin said.

Surtees and Gov. Robert Bentley said there is no data to prove the law has or has not had an effect.

"We just need to be excited about the drop in unemployment rates," Bentley said.

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