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Government shutdown impacts October unemployment

Published 2:25pm Friday, November 22, 2013

The Morgan County unemployment rate remained at 6 percent for the month of October, according to new data released by the Alabama Department of Labor.

The number stayed flat despite fewer workers having jobs in October. In September, 52,855 workers were employed, which is 413 more than October.

The overall workforce also declined from 56,219 in September to 55,773 in October.

The numbers are still better than a year ago, when the October 2012 rate was 6.6 percent. However, the number of employed persons has declined from 53,380 in 2012 to 52,442 in 2013.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Alabama actually saw a slight increase from 6.4 percent to 6.5 percent in October, but is much better than a 7.1 percent rate last year.

Alabama Department of Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees attributed the higher unemployment rate to the federal government shutdown.

“Obviously, the federal government shutdown impacted many jobs in Alabama. It also affected the numbers and how they were reported. Thousands of Alabamians were out of work in October due to the shutdown, and therefore affected our unemployment rate.

Surtees said there are about 40,000 federal employees in Alabama.

“During the shutdown, nearly 2,000 filed initial unemployment compensation claims, but thousands more did not,” Surtees continued. “Whether they didn’t file because they knew they would be later paid, or for some other reason, we can’t really know. When they file claims, they are traceable to some extent. The problem arose when the federal government conducted its monthly employment surveys and found discrepancies in the ways these federal government workers answered employment questions.”

With the exception of three, all counties are showing a decrease in their October 2013 unemployment rate from October 2012, some with drops as high as one and a half percentage points, such as Greene County (-1.6 percent), Washington County (-1.5 percent), and Chambers County (-1.5 percent).

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in September were: Shelby County at 4.4 percent, Lee County at 5.0 percent and Cullman County at 5.4 percent. Counties with the highest unemployment rates in September were: Wilcox County at 15.6 percent, Dallas County at 13.6 percent, and Bullock County at 13.0 percent.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in October are: Shelby County at 4.3 percent, Lee County at 5.1 percent, and Cherokee County at 5.4 percent. Counties with the highest unemployment rates in October are: Wilcox County at 15.5 percent, Bullock County at 13.2 percent, and Dallas County at 13.0 percent.

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