Jobless rate plummets to single digit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2005

The State of Alabama’s unemployment rate for January 2005 remained steady, but Butler County’s rate dropped to 8 percent.

This is a drop of over 1 percent from the 9.4 percentage posted in Dec. 2004 and it is a far cry from the 9.8 percent of Jan. 2004.

Not only did this good news greet local leaders, but also the news that the U.S. Census Bureau changed its number also helped

According to Ricky McLaney, executive director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development, the Department of Industrial Relations used numbers and data collected in the 1990 Census when figuring unemployment rates.

Well, that Census data is now 15 years old and the population is quite different, he said.

&uot;Because of the new data they’ve used, they have refigured our jobless rate and we are now very close to the 7.2 percent we had nine years ago,&uot; McLaney said.

Under the new data, McLaney said the jobless rate has hovered above 8 to 10 percent for the last year in reality with it being as high as 11.7 percent in July 2004 rather than the reported 15.5 percent.

&uot;The Bureau of Labor Statistics routinely updates these numbers as new Census data becomes available each year,&uot; he said.

&uot;Prior to this report, they were still using data collected in the 1990 Census.&uot;

Using the chart provided by McLaney, one can easily see the &uot;ups and downs&uot; of the economy for the Butler County.

The lowest unemployment in the county since 1973 was in Dec. 1973.

The county had a jobless rate of 3.7 percent.

In 1979, the rate increased significantly.

&uot;Those numbers in the 1970s represents when Dan River was in its heyday here in Butler County,&uot; McLaney said.

&uot;Then late 1979-1980, you see a sharp increase in the rates with it spiking as high at 15.7 percent.

Then Allied opens and you see the percentage go back down.&uot;

When Allied and others began to shut down in the late 1990s, the numbers began to rise again, getting as high as 18 percent in Aug. 1999.

&uot;Now as we have seen Hwashin, Hysco and Image Entry move in, the jobless rate is going back down,&uot; he said.

&uot;With our recent successes and the strength of our existing businesses and industries, we have stabilized somewhat.&uot;

McLaney said he would often cringe when the numbers were released because he always felt they not true reflections of the county.

&uot;I feel like this is a better reflection of what is going on here,&uot; he said.

&uot;We’ve got REF reopening later this month, two industries looking to expand and others looking to locate here.

I think successes in our neighboring counties are also going to help our employment rate tremendously.&uot;

Jesse McWilliams, chairman of the Butler County Commission, praised McLaney for his work in recruiting industries and also others involved in such work.

He said the county would not be seeing such numbers without the hard work and dedication of many people.

&uot;This is another reason why is it important for us all to work together, and by that I mean the county and cities,&uot; he said.

&uot;I know we have been able to help out on getting the automotive suppliers into the area and we’re very proud of that.

It is a team effort from start to finish.&uot;

McWilliams said it is always important to remember that what benefits one citizen of Butler County, benefits all the citizens.

&uot;That is why it is important for us to work together on these projects, and by making sure that we’re not competing against one another.

I think Ricky McLaney has done a great job of bringing these people here and that there has been a great deal of time and effort put in by many who can now claim they did a good job.&uot;

As for that jobless rate, McWilliams is confident it will continue to drop.

&uot;We have jobs coming in and that’s a good thing and we’re hoping it will come on down,&uot; he said.

&uot;I believe that the real bulk of what’s coming is not here yet and when it arrives it will be good for our economy. We have a real positive economic outlook.&uot;

Industrial Relations Director Phyllis Kennedy said Alabama’s average unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in 2004.

The national unemployment rate for January was 5.2 percent.

Kennedy said there was a gain of 42,200 jobs in wage and salary employment over the year with most occurring in professional and business services.

Bullock County’s 11.6 percent jobless rate was the highest among the 67 counties. Shelby County again posted the lowest rate at 3.4 percent.

Butler County had 8,398 people employed with 735 people who where jobless in January.