Alabama’s official unemployment rate rose to 12.7 percent in April, according to the latest monthly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released this morning. It’s the highest rate since 12.8 percent unemployment was recorded in October 1983.
The Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) reported the number represents a total of 283,787 unemployed persons, although their own weekly data reflects that nearly 500,000 people have filed for unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March.
The federal unemployment rate was calculated by household and establishment surveys administered the week of April 12-18. But the state data indicates that in Baldwin County, 24,965 people have filed for unemployment since March 14, representing 26 percent of the civilian labor force. In Mobile County, 48,643 people have filed for unemployment in the same time period, or 26.1 percent of the civilian labor force. Statewide, 21.5 percent of the more than 2.2 million workers have filed for unemployment, according to the weekly ADOL data.
As recently as February, the state had a historically low unemployment rate of 2.7 percent.
“While we are certainly disappointed to see our unemployment rate rise so sharply this month, it’s not surprising,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement this morning. “This global pandemic and national disaster has certainly impacted Alabamians’ ability to work. We know that hundreds of thousands of people have filed for unemployment benefits over the past two months, and we’ve been able to process and pay a great majority of those. We realize there are some still waiting on relief, and we hear and understand their frustration. Please rest assured that my administration is working tirelessly to provide relief to those Alabamians and their families, and I have the utmost confidence in the Alabama Department of Labor and the dedicated state employees there who are working tirelessly to serve their fellow citizens.”
While initial unemployment filings spiked between March 28 and April 25, for the past three weeks the numbers have flattened. From a high of 102,384 people filing for unemployment the week ending April 4, since May 2, no more than 25,000 people have filed for unemployment statewide each week.
Earlier this week, ADOL reported it had disbursed more than $1 billion in COVID-19 related unemployment compensation benefits under all three programs covered in the federal CARES Act: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
$1,007,106,963 has been paid to 267,357 claimants over the period covering March 16 – May 18, representing 1,287,026 weeks paid. ADOL has issued payments to 88 percent of those filing COVID-19 related active claims since March 16.
Meanwhile, ADOL Communications Director Tara Hutchinson told Lagniappe the state’s own Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund has expended roughly $76 million since the pandemic began, and had a balance of $539 million last Friday.
“I think everyone will agree that these numbers aren’t numbers we ever wanted to report,” Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said. “This pandemic has negatively impacted Alabama’s economy and in two months’ time has managed to undo years of positive progress. But the impact to our employers and workers who carry the economy is even greater. So many had life altering changes that impacted their families almost overnight. I want all Alabamians to know that we are working nonstop to help move this recovery along. We are developing new technologies, adding staff, and making modifications wherever possible to help our workers through this enormously difficult time.”
Further data released by ADOL indicates wage and salary employment decreased in April by 201,700. Monthly losses were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (-79,500), the professional and business services sector (-29,500), the education and health services sector (-26,400), and the manufacturing sector (-24,200), among others.
Over the year, wage and salary employment decreased by 199,200, with losses in the leisure and hospitality sector (-87,900), the professional and business services sector (-30,800), the education and health services sector (-25,300), and the manufacturing sector (-19,100), among others.
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