(September 18, 2020) – Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced today that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted August unemployment rate is 5.6%, down from July’s rate of 7.9%, and above August 2019’s rate of 2.8%. August’s rate represents 127,186 unemployed persons, compared to 176,556 in July and 62,149 in August 2019.

“The drop in the unemployment rate is certainly good news for Alabama,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “We have worked extremely hard to open Alabama’s businesses safely, and to put our hard-working families back to work.  We know that challenges remain, and we will endeavor to meet them so that we can get back to our previous, pre-pandemic record setting employment numbers.”

“August showed a larger drop in the unemployment rate than we’ve seen for a few months,” said Washington. “We are continuing to see our initial claims drop, staying under 10,000 for the past several weeks. We regained another 22,200 jobs this month but are still down more than 86,000 from this time last year.”

“One highlight is that our civilian labor force, or the number of people who are working or actively looking for work, is at its highest level ever! This means that people are confident that jobs are there for them to find,” continued Washington.

Several industries saw their average weekly earnings reach record high levels, including:

  • Total Private: $941.76, up $91.03 over the year
  • Goods Producing: $1099.76, up $48.91 over the year
    • Construction: $1,067.90, up $72.79 over the year
    • Manufacturing: $1,128.13, up $72.26 over the year
  • Private Service Providing: $895.57, up $102.32 over the year

Wage and salary employment grew in August by 22,200.  Monthly gains were seen in the government sector (+9,600), the professional and business services sector (+7,100), and the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+5,500), among others.  Over the year, wage and salary employment decreased by 86,800, with losses in the leisure and hospitality sector (-34,900), the education and health services sector (-19,800), and the professional and business services sector (-13,300), among others.

All counties and metro areas saw a decrease in unemployment rates over the month.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Clay County at 3.4%, Randolph, Franklin, Marshall, Cullman, Cleburne, and Cherokee Counties at 3.6%, and Blount County at 3.7%.  Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 14.8%, Lowndes County at 13.8%, and Greene County at 10.9%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 3.0%, Homewood at 3.2%, and Madison at 3.3%.  Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Prichard at 15.4%, Selma at 12.9%, and Bessemer at 10.7%.

For more information regarding how the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the unemployment rate, please visit https://www.bls.gov/bls/bls-covid-19-questions-and-answers.htm.

NOTE: Data users must be cautious about trying to compare or reconcile the UI claims data with the official unemployment figures gathered through the household survey. The unemployment data derived from the household survey in no way depend upon the eligibility for or receipt of UI benefits. In some cases, UI claims data exclude people who would be identified as unemployed in the household survey, like new entrants to the labor force with no prior work experience. In other cases, UI data may include individuals who do not meet the CPS definition of unemployment. The recent Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020, signed on March 27, 2020, allowed states to temporarily modify or suspend the “actively seeking work” requirement to respond to the spread of COVID-19.


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 “Seasonal adjustment” refers to BLS’s practice of anticipating certain trends in the labor force, such as hiring during the holidays or the surge in the labor force when students graduate in the spring, and removing their effects to the civilian labor force. 

The Current Population (CPS), or the household survey, is conducted by the Census Bureau and identifies members of the work force and measures how many people are working or looking for work.

The establishment survey, which is conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, surveys employers to measure how many jobs are in the economy.  This is also referred to as wage and salary employment.