MONTGOMERY – (March 15, 2021) Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced today that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted January 2021 unemployment rate is 4.3%, down from December 2020’s revised rate of 4.7%*, and above January 2020’s rate of 2.7%.  January’s rate represents 97,726 unemployed persons, compared to 106,318 in December and 59,405 in January 2020.

“As we begin a new year, it’s encouraging to see our monthly unemployment rate drop, marking a new record low since the pandemic began,” said Washington. “While we are still not where we were before this year of massive change, we are making progress.  More people were employed this month, and fewer were unemployed, which is always good news.”

January’s rate represents 2,160,347 employed persons, compared to 2,157,736 in December and 2,180,872 in January 2020.

Wage and salary employment decreased in January by 28,600.  Monthly gains were seen in the mining and logging sector (+300), while the following sectors showed decreases: the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (-11,400), the professional and business services sector (-4,500), and the leisure and hospitality sector (-3,800) among others.  Over the year, wage and salary employment decreased by 69,500, with losses in the leisure and hospitality sector (-20,500), the education and health services sector (-11,100), and the government sector (-10,000), among others.

“It is not uncommon for the number of jobs to drop from December to January,” continued Washington. “This happens nearly every year and is related to holiday and seasonal employment ending.  Combined with the extraordinary circumstances of the last year, it’s not surprising to see job losses. However, the trends of the past few months indicate that we will likely soon begin to see the jobs number climb again.”

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 2.3%, Blount County at 2.4%, and Limestone and Cullman Counties at 2.5%.  Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 12.4%, Lowndes County at 12.1%, and Perry County at 9.5%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 1.9%, Alabaster and Homewood at 2.0%, and Madison at 2.2%.  Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Prichard at 11.5%, Selma at 10.9%, and Bessemer at 7.9%.

*December’s rate was revised due to a process known as annual benchmarking.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics completes this process each year and generally revises preliminary numbers as they firm up preliminary data and reassess seasonal adjustments.


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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.