Unemployment numbers improving in Alabama

Above are jobless claims statewide from June 6, 2020 to August 22, 2020. 

Alabama’s unemployment numbers have steadily decreased since April 4, with the latest figures showing a 1,130% decrease over the five months that have followed. Nationally, 10.6 million people have returned to work since the pandemic arrived in the United States in February. Some 6.7 million Americans remain jobless.

The count of statewide initial claims includes individuals who filed first-time claims as well as additional claims filed by individuals as a result of a new unemployment event. The claims are reviewed and aren’t necessarily indicative of the claims that result in monetary compensation.

The number of claims statewide were 1,824 for the week ending March 14 (18 in DeKalb County), then the number jumped to 10,982 the following week (74 in DeKalb) before rapidly spiking to 80,984 for the week ending March 28, with 939 of these in DeKalb.

These dates closely reflect the impact of Alabama’s efforts to contain COVID-19 outbreaks during the late winter and early spring. The volume of initial claims for unemployment insurance tell the story of the disease and 2020.

On March 3, the U.S. number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States jumped from 78, then 98, prompting the Alabama Department of Public Health to advise Alabama’s universities to implement plans to control the spread of disease on their campuses. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic on March 11.

On March 13, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a public health emergency as ADPH received its first positive test result for a case of COVID-19 in an Alabama resident. On March 19, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris issued orders suspending certain public gatherings, prohibiting gatherings of 25 or more people and ordering all public schools and senior citizen centers closed. Restaurants were limited to take-out or delivery orders.

On March 27, Harris issued a health order closing “non-essential” businesses. The following week, 106,739 initial jobless claims were filed either online or by telephone. In DeKalb County, initial claims reached 1,242 for that week.

On April 3, Harris issued a health order effective until April 30 requiring every person in Alabama to stay at his or her place of residence except as necessary to perform essential activities. They began to ease restrictions in late April, when DeKalb County had 75 confirmed cases and two deaths. This corresponds to the initial claim figures dropping from 74,966 statewide for the week of April 25 (827 inside DeKalb) to 28,666 (230 in DeKalb) for the week ending May 2.

Initial jobless (185 in DeKalb) but then rebound as high as 23,678 (253 locally) for the week ending July 18, a period during which several nursing homes and industries reported outbreaks.

In late July, Gov. Ivey issued a mask mandate (which she extended last week until Oct. 2). The state’s jobless claims dramatically dropped from 17,439 (204 in DeKalb) for the week ending July 25 to 11,692 (127 locally) for the week ending August 1. There were 9,468 claims (111 in DeKalb) for the week ending August 8, then 11,048 the following week.

The latest figures, reflecting the week ending August 22, show 8,676 initial claims filed statewide, with 83 filed inside DeKalb County, in what is hopefully a downward trend. ADOL attributes 4,588 of those 8,676 claims as COVID-19 related.

For comparison sake, on the latest figures for the week ending August 22, there were 87 initial claims in Jackson County, 155 in Marshall County, 175 in Etowah County and 26 in Cherokee County.

Nationally, the civilian unemployment rate rose from 4.4% in March 2020 to 14.7% in April, with the July rate estimated to be 10.2% overall after nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.8 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These measures are up by 6.7 percentage points and 10.6 million, respectively, since February. The rate is 14.6% for African Americans, 12% for Asians and 12.9% for Hispanic workers.

“These improvements in the labor market reflected the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to [COVID-19] and efforts to contain it. In July, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, government, retail trade, professional and business services, other services, and health care,” a BLS news release reads.

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