Unemployment rates for April edged down in Morgan, Limestone and Lawrence counties, but the Decatur-area’s increase in service jobs was countered by a decrease in industrial jobs, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Labor.
The Decatur metro area, which includes Morgan and Lawrence counties, lost 200 manufacturing jobs in the year ending in April. During the same period, it gained 400 service jobs.
Ahmad Ijaz, director of economic forecasting at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse School of Commerce, said the loss of manufacturing jobs is not unique to the Decatur area. He attributes it primarily to two causes.
“Manufacturing has slowed down considerably since last year,” Ijaz said. “Some of it is a slowdown in domestic demand and some of it is due to a significant slowdown in European and emerging market economies, particularly China.”
He said the industries losing jobs in the state include fabricated and primary metals such as steel, computer and electronic products manufacturing, paper products manufacturing, and non-automotive transportation equipment.
“Another reason is the increase in automation and changing technology in manufacturing, specifically the kind of firms located in north Alabama,” Ijaz said. “Plus, you guys have also experienced some job losses in government-related jobs due to declining federal government spending, which also has an impact on manufacturing-related government contractors.”
In Morgan County, the unemployment rate in April was 5.1 percent, down from 5.8 percent in March and 5.3 percent in April 2015. During the same period, the workforce increased by about 190.
Limestone County in April was tied with Cullman County with the ninth-lowest unemployment rate in the state, and close behind Madison County, which was ranked seventh. Limestone’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, down from 5.5 percent in March and 5 percent in April 2015.
At 6.7 percent, Lawrence County had the 18th-highest unemployment rate among the state’s 67 counties. Its unemployment was down from 7.5 percent in March and 6.9 percent in April 2015.
The unemployment rates for Limestone and Morgan counties were below the state rate, which — not seasonally adjusted and thus comparable to the county numbers — was 5.5 percent in April.
Seasonally adjusted, Alabama’s rate was 6.1 percent in April, identical to its rate in April 2015 but down from its March rate of 6.2 percent. The seasonally adjusted U.S. unemployment rate was 5 percent, down from 5.4 percent in April 2015.
“This is a promising month for us,” Alabama Department of Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington said in a statement. “There are more people looking for work and more people working this month than there have been all year. The number of people who are unemployed is down.”
Statewide, wage and salary employment increased by 16,500 jobs in April, with most jobs coming in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. The professional and business services sector added 3,500 jobs.
Shelby County has the state’s lowest job rate at 4 percent. The state’s worst unemployment is in Wilcox County, at 12.8 percent.