Every third Friday of the month, there is a ritual at the MCEDC office. Check labor.alabama.gov and see what the local and state unemployment rate has done. The Alabama Department of Labor publishes these numbers for the previous month generally on the third Friday. The unemployment rate is one of several indices about the economic well being of a community.
It is by no means all-inclusive. A community can have numerous factors that affect the rate and for different reasons it can say different things about the community. Today, when I checked the rate, I saw that it was up from 5.2% in April to 5.9% in May. At first glance, that is discouraging. Especially when you consider that we have been consistently trending down in recent months. Then I looked at the Civilian Labor Force numbers and a huge smile appeared on my face from out of nowhere.
For the first time in almost a year, our CLF numbers were over the 40,000 mark. The Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) tracks only people actively seeking a job. It does not take into consideration people who have become discouraged or for whatever reason quit looking for a job. Having a declining CLF is exponentially worse than having a higher trending unemployment rate. This question is almost always asked by prospective companies that we are recruiting. Marshall County used to routinely run CLF numbers in the 40-43,000s but since 2009 we have hovered around 38-40,000 only topping 40,000 once in all of 2014.
In May our CLF rose to 40,206 from 39,656 in April. In fact, the number of employed persons in Marshall County rose from 37,582 in April to 37,817 in May. So more people are working in May than in April, but also more people are looking for work, hence the increase in the unemployment rate. This trend actually mirrors what the State of Alabama as a whole is seeing. It usually does not begin to trend upward until June or July as recent graduates enter the workforce and begin looking for work. For it to be up so early is very encouraging.
In my world, where any arbitrary statistic can cause a prospective employer to cross Marshall County off their list or move us to the top of their list, this data helps us make the case that this is a place where people want to work and are good employees. While 5.9% is higher than I want our unemployment rate to be, at least I can show employers that the workers are out there and this is where they can find them!