The unemployment rate in Morgan County fell below 3% in April, tied for the third lowest in the state, and surrounding counties weren't much higher in data released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.
Morgan County's unemployment rate was 2.9% in April, down from 3.3% in March and 3.2% in April 2018. The April unemployment rate in Decatur was also 2.9%.
In Limestone County, April unemployment was 3%, down from 3.4% in March and 3.1% a year ago. The unemployment rate in Athens was 2.9%.
Lawrence County's 3.5% rate was down from 3.9% in March and 3.8% in April 2018.
The rates are low enough, according to the head of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, that it will be an increasing challenge to fill job openings.
"What's fortunate is that our high schools are doing an amazing job steering kids to career tech," Nails said, when they are not planning to attend a four-year college.
Especially with job openings related to Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, Nail said some workers will come from elsewhere.
"We're trying to recruit people in. If you've got jobs in the area, people are going to move in," he said.
He said the tightening labor market also is making companies more receptive to applicants who have past felonies.
"We're focusing on second-chance job fairs for nonviolent offenders," Nails said. "Companies are changing their views on this. If someone did something when they were 18, maybe it doesn't follow them for more than eight years."
While the tight Morgan County labor market is a challenge for employers, he said the workforce isn't controlled by city or county borders.
"When you talk about workforce, it's not just Decatur. It's all of north Alabama," he said.
Not seasonally adjusted and thus comparable to the county numbers, Alabama's unemployment rate in April was 3.4% and the national rate was 3.3%.
The preliminary statewide, seasonally adjusted jobless rate for April is 3.8%. That's up one-tenth of a percent from March, but it's still below the rate from a year before of 4.1%.
The April rate represents 83,565 unemployed people in the state. But a news release from the Labor Department says the state still has more people working than ever before for the fourth straight month. More than 2.1 million people had jobs last month.
"Our economy is supporting more jobs than ever before and more people are in the labor force than ever before. Those that are entering the labor force are finding work," said Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington.
The unemployment rate can increase despite the high employment level as the labor force expands.
The counties with the lowest unemployment rates were Shelby County in metro Birmingham at 2.4%, Marshall County at 2.8%, and Morgan, Tuscaloosa, Madison, Lee, Elmore, and Blount counties at 2.9%. Counties with the highest unemployment rates were Wilcox County in west Alabama at 7%, Greene and Lowndes counties at 6.5%, and Clarke County at 6%.