June unemployment figures in Alabama give reason for optimism. Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced today (Friday) that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted June unemployment rate is 7.5%, down from May’s revised rate of 9.6%, and above June 2019’s rate of 2.9%. June’s rate represents 165,770 unemployed persons, compared to 216,043 in May and 65,389 in June 2019.

Tuscaloosa County’s unemployment rate is still not as good as the state’s overall rate. 9% unemployment in Tuscaloosa County is reflective of almost 10,000 residents still out of work. But that is still better than May’s 10.7% jobless figure.

Every West Alabama County saw their unemployment rates improve. That includes Greene (14.0%) and Perry (14.1%) who continues to post the region’s highest out of work numbers.

Some financial experts predicted this spring’s COVID-19 devastated economy would slip into a record long-term recession. Still others were forecasting a 1930s type depression. After all the pandemic triggered shutdown forced thousands of small businesses to shutter their doors forever and thousands of workers in what had been a record hot state economy found themselves unemployed.

Panic buying, supply shortages, price gouging, shortages of certain foodstuffs and a plunging stock market gave every indication that the doomsayers were correct. Multi-billion dollar stimulus bills from congress further hinted that the U.S. and Alabama economies were on the brink.

Reopening Alabama has seemed to be successful so far. Yet the recovery is still fragile and whether or not it takes root depends on a lot of factors, not the least being how long it will take to corral the coronavirus. If the current upward spiral of COVID-19 cases continues it is not out of the realm of possibility that another shutdown could be in the foreseeable future.

At Governor Ivey’s press conference to announce the mandatory facial covering order Wednesday, Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris indicated the state will take every measure it can to prevent another massive closure but he made it plain citizens will need to do a better job of taking personal health safety precautions.

But the new figures from Montgomery show some hope. Wage and salary employment grew in June by 42,300. Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+24,100) which was hit hardest by the shutdown. There were also gains in trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+8,900), the professional and business services sector (+6,900), and the manufacturing sector (+4,800), among others.

The current employment and economic picture for Tuscaloosa is blurry and it will not come into better focus until we see what the future of the pandemic holds, how many college students return to campus this fall and if one of the area’s biggest economic drivers, Alabama home football games, will be played in the newly updated Bryant-Denny Stadium.

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