Alabama's unemployment best in region

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's unemployment rate has dropped more than any of its bordering states according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the data, Alabama's unemployment has dropped by 1.9% since July 2011 when the rate reached its high for the year at 10% unemployment. Compared to Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida, Alabama's rate has gone down by more than 1.5% than the average of those states.

"The emphasis we've placed on job creation, I believe it's worked" said Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Hubbard in an interview.

Hubbard says the GOP majorities in the Alabama State Legislature are responsible for the steep decline that leads the region. The policies lawmakers enacted during the 2011 Regular Session Hubbard said are the engines driving the rate down.

"We've had a number of incentives that we've passed over the last session that I think have been taken advantage of. They're basically tools in a toolbox that we give to our economic developers on both the state level and on the local level" Hubbard, (R – Auburn) said.

The legislature passed a handful of measures that were touted as ways to recruit industry to Alabama. They included tax incentives for companies to relocate to Alabama and a law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration which was sold as an economic development bill.

Rep. Hubbard didn't specify which companies had taken advantage of the tax incentives and created jobs in Alabama which contributed to the drop in unemployment

Democrats in the legislature say Republicans can't take credit for anything positive relating to the unemployment rate.

"People work during the Christmas holiday" said Rep. John Rogers (D – Birmingham). "You got students who come in and work and they're laid off in January and February. So now the real test is how long will it sustain with the numbers."

The unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations. It doesn't take into account the number of people who have stopped looking for work.

Mississippi has the highest unemployment rate among neighboring states at 10.4%. Mississippi's unemployment rate reached 10.6% during the month of October when Alabama's unemployment rate declined from 9.8% to 9.3%.

The second lowest rate of unemployment is Tennessee at 8.7%.

As for the impact of the illegal immigration law passed by the Alabama legislature, Hubbard says it has made an impact in northern counties like Marshall and Madison.

"Now I can't tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that is the reason but it certainly is a contributing factor" Hubbard said.

Rep. Rogers said the immigration law didn't contribute to the lower unemployment rate.

"The immigration law didn't have anything to do with it at all. That's not true" Rogers said.

December saw Alabama's fifth straight month of declined unemployment.

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