State struggles with unemployment figures

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's unemployment jumped to 9.9 percent in June, three-tenths of a percentage point increase from May.

State officials say one key factor for the increase is the growing number of people looking for jobs.  While there have more than 33,000 new jobs created in the state since the beginning of the year, the problem is there's an additional 50,000 people in the state looking for jobs.

State Director of Industrial Relations Tom Surtees said that may be a sign that people are optimistic they can find a job, and that can drive the unemployment rate up.

"Whether it's that optimism, whether it's people moving into the state, whether it's those discouraged workers coming in, they are more people trying to going to work and we're trying to bring more jobs in this state."

It's a problem Alabama shares with its neighbors.  States in the Deep South have some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, according to preliminary numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Surtees said two of the sectors most prominent in the South - manufacturing and construction - were hard hit by the recession.

"It's under 20 percent of the workforce, but we were seeing as far as the unemployed, it was 33 percent.  So we saw those industries both hit," Surtees said,

"We tend to have more concentration in manufacturing than other states, said Keivan Deravi, an Economist at Auburn Montgomery.   "That can also contribute since manufacturing slowed down in May and June. "

And Deravi said the sluggishness of the recovery is also having an impact.

"Our economy is at par with 2007, meaning for three years we haven't gone forward at all," he said.   "This economy's struggling big time."

The unemployment picture could look pretty bad for July as well, because of seasonal factors.  Surtees said he's optimistic that the recent jobs announcements in the state will begin to show an impact by the end of the year.

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