Black Belt, Urban Areas Lag Behind as Alabama's Unemployment Rates Improve
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Montgomery, AL - The Alabama Department of Labor released the latest unemployment statistics today showing the state unemployment rate dropping to 7.5 percent in June, almost cutting in half the 13.8 percent unemployment rate from April. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Alabama’s unemployment rate was at an all-time low of 2.7 percent.
Last year, more than 2.17 million people were employed in Alabama. That number dropped by nearly 150,000 in the most recent job report, with approximately 2.03 million people employed in the state. As restaurants, spas, and gyms continue to re-open, the state’s biggest employment gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector which added over 24,000 employees.
While the state as a whole is showing marked improvement since the onset of the pandemic, many workers in the Black Belt and urban areas are still struggling to get back to work. The unemployment rate in Wilcox County is the highest at 18.5 percent. Lowndes and Perry counties are not far behind, coming in at 16.9 percent and 14.1 percent respectively. Likewise, Selma is at 15.3 percent unemployment rate, while both Bessemer and Mobile are at 13 percent.
At the end of the month, the $600 per week unemployment benefit provided by the federal government in the CARES Act will end. Congress has discussed a second round of stimulus for American citizens, but it will likely be well into August before any additional stimulus or boosted unemployment checks will be signed into law and filtered back to the states.
Getting back to work may be even more difficult for parents of school-aged children in Selma and Mobile. Both school systems recently announced their intention to keep their schools closed, instead opting for virtual/online instruction. The virtual/online instruction initially will be for the first few months of the school year, but classroom structure is still an open question for the remainder of the year. Other local education agencies across the state are still waiting for more clarification from the Alabama State Department of Education and State School Board before making a final decision. The unemployment issue could be further compounded for parents if daycares and after-school programs are not open or are forced to restrict their hours and space.