County’s jobless rate linked to commute

Shelby County maintained its position as the state’s lowest in unemployment for October, a feature that some say is directly linked to the county’s high number of commuters who drive into Jefferson County for work.

October unemployment rates, released last week by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, were 2.6 percent for Shelby County, the lowest in the state. That’s compared to the 5.6 percent average for the state, slightly up from the September rate of 5.5 percent.

&uot;Clearly, the unemployment figures are related to the fact that so many people leave the county to go to work,&uot; said James Dedes, executive director of the Shelby County Economic and Industrial Development Authority.

According to the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, about 50 percent of workers in Shelby County go to Jefferson County for work.

However, as the county continues to grow, Dedes said he expects more employers to move into the county.

&uot;It makes sense to have your plant in the area where your employees live,&uot; he said.

Other factors contributing to Shelby County’s low unemployment rate include new service-sector jobs and others, such as automotive industry jobs.

Dedes said new automotive businesses such as AP Technoglass, Citation Corporation and In-Control have created new jobs in the automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEM) division.

Companies in Shelby County are uniquely positioned geographically to provide components to three large automotive assembly plants in Alabama, Dedes said.

Alabama’s unemployment rates for 2003, averaging 5.6 percent, are down from 5.9 percent for 2002. The state also remains below the national rate of 6 percent.

Alabama’s October rate represents 120,300 unemployed people, compared to 117,200 last month, and 123,100 a year ago.

Over the past year, the majority of job losses occurred in manufacturing (-11,100), trade, transportation and public utilities (-2,700), education and health services (-1,300) and government (1,000).

Construction employment increased 1,900 over the year.