West Alabama Pandemic Unemployment Rate Continues Upward
Last week 3,546 unemployment claims were filed in West Alabama’s 11 counties as the pandemic devastated economy staggers on. The bulk of the claims 2,272 come from Tuscaloosa County. Walker County was next at 312 with Bibb County at 217 and Hale County 208.
The fewest claims filed in West Alabama came from Sumter County with 81. Greene County’s 84 was next highest followed by 89 in Fayette County, 91 in Marengo and 99 in Perry County. There 118 unemployment claims filed in Lamar County and 155 in Pickens County.
Statewide April first time claims filed numbered at 27,920. during the week of May 17 – May 23, 2020. 16,926 of those claims are COVID-19 related.
The number of Alabamians seeking first-time unemployment compensation are likely higher than reported by the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL). The shear number of persons seeking assistance has overwhelmed the state’s system forcing ADOL to hire and train more operators.
According to ADOL Communications Director Tara Hutchison, initial claims include individuals who filed first-time claims as well as additional claims filed by individuals because of a new unemployment event. Initial claims include claims that are still being reviewed for eligibility. “Counts for initial claims are not indicative of the number of claims that will result in monetary compensation,” she noted.
State Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington says ADOL is paying benefits under all three Congressionally funded programs covered in the CARES Act: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
“ADOL has processed 88% of active COVID-19 related claims, and by doing so, has disbursed more than one billion dollars into Alabama’s economy,” said Washington. “Over the past two months, we have paid out more in total unemployment benefits than in the last six years combined.”
In February Alabama had a historically low 2.7% unemployment. As the coronavirus outbreak began to spread in March the state’s unemployment rate edged upward to 3%, still well below the 5% full-employment rate considered by economists.
In April, the full weight of the pandemic lockdown ordered in March began to be felt. The unemployment rate rocketed up to 12.9% Now that we are in May unemployment benefits are still be applied for in astounding numbers.
The April unemployment rate for Tuscaloosa County was 16.8% or 17,888 residents of the county out of work. That was only topped by Perry County’s 20.9% unemployment rate (737 unemployed).
By comparison, April 2019, saw only 10,254 initial unemployment claims filed statewide. Just 288 initial claims were filed in Tuscaloosa County a year ago.
According to ADOL the current statewide unemployment rate of 12.9% represents 283,787 unemployed persons, compared to 67,004 in March and 71,185 in April of 2019.
The national unemployment rate in April was 14.7 percent, is up from March’s rate of 4.4 percent, and above the year-ago rate of 3.6 percent.
Alabama workers can file for benefits online at www.labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382. Online filing is encouraged.