Ala. unemployment at 21 year high

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama's January unemployment rate soared to 7.8 percent, the highest figure in more than 21 years.

Alabama last hit 7.8 percent in May 1987. Ahmad Ijaz, an economic researcher at the University of Alabama, predicts Alabama hasn't seen the worst in unemployment.

His prediction for the possible peak: 8.5 percent.

Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees announced today the state's jobless rate jumped from December's rate of 6.5 percent.

The January 2009 rate was double the state's jobless figure a year ago.

Surtees said the number of jobless in January grew by 40,700 and pushed the total number of Alabamians out of work to 167,774 Alabamians.

The national unemployment rate was 7.6 percent.

It marked the first time since May 2001 that Alabama's rate has been higher than the national rate.

In January, 30 of Alabama's 67 counties had unemployment rates in double digits. Wilcox County had the highest figure at 19.5 percent.

Shelby County was the lowest at 5.5 percent.

Alabama's 10 highest counties in unemployment for January:

1-Wilcox 19.5%

2-Chambers 17.9%

3-Dallas 17.3%

4-Lowndes 17.0%

5-Perry 16.8%

6-Monroe 14.8%

7-Conecuh 14.7%

8-Winston 14.1%

9-Marion 13.6%

10-Greene 13.2%

Source: Alabama Department of Industrial Relations

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