County unemployment rate rises sharply

Shelby County’s January unemployment rate rose by more than a percentage point, going to 8.8 percent from 7.6 percent in December.

However, the state’s three most stable counties, Shelby, Madison and Coffee, all saw higher unemployment rates in January.

Madison’s January unemployment rate was 8.7 percent, a percentage point higher than the December rate of 7.7 percent. Coffee’s January unemployment rate was 9 percent, almost a percentage point higher than the December rate of 8.1 percent.

The state’s unemployment rate rose to 11.1 percent, just higher than the December rate of 10.9 percent.

That 11.1 percent represents 228,105 unemployed.

Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said the economy should begin slowly improving soon, and the unemployment rate is not always an accurate indicator of economic health.

“As we begin a new year, I hope that this great recession is nearing its end, and will allow our nation’s and our state’s economy to begin to repair itself,” he said. “As that happens, I would like to remind everyone that the unemployment rate is a lagging indicator of economic recovery.”

The counties with the highest unemployment rates were Wilcox at 27.4 percent, Monroe at 22.4 percent and Conecuh at 21.8 percent.

The state’s average unemployment rate for 2009 was 10.1 percent. In 2009, the state lost 70,400 jobs.