County jobless numbers increase

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 23, 2010

A four-month long trend of declining unemployment rates for Covington County ended in December as the county saw a 1.3 percent increase, likely due to previously announced layoffs at a local company.

The newest figures, which were released Friday from the state Department of Industrial Relations, show Covington County logged a 10.8 percent unemployment rate as claims for unemployment compensation in December rose by 223 to 1,704.

Those figures, which show a large difference from this time last year when the county saw only 6.7 percent unemployment, also include those affected by Sitel’s Dec. 1 layoff. Corporate officials announced the move in November and stated 158 employees at its Sanford call center would lose their jobs Dec. 1, when the company’s T-Mobile account moved to a new site.

However, Covington County’s economic outlook is better than the state’s as a whole, and than its neighboring counties.

It ranked the lowest among neighboring counties. Conecuh had 19 percent; Butler had 16 percent; Escambia had 12.7 percent; Geneva had 10.1 percent; Crenshaw had 9.9 percent and Coffee had 8.1 percent.

Highest in the state were Wilcox County with 24.5 percent; Monroe County with 20.2 percent and Dallas County with 20.1 percent. Neighboring Conecuh County’s 19 percent unemployment made them fourth-highest in the state. The state’s December unemployment rate rose from 10.5 percent in November to 11 percent in December.

“Although we became a little hopeful due to last month’s unemployment decrease, I think we all realize the reality of the economic situation in this country,” said DIR Director Tom Surtees. “We are continuing to see Alabamians suffer from the recession and remain committed to serving them.”

Surtes said during 2009, the state distributed benefits exceeding $1.2 billion.

As for 2009 as a whole, Covington County ranked 37th in the state for its annual average of 5.3 percent of unemployment for 2008.