MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s unemployment rate jumped to 12.9% in April during the economic shutdown linked to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst in nearly 37 years, the state said Friday as its most populous county extended a lockdown order because of an increase in cases.
Department of Labor statistics showed nearly 217,000 people lost their jobs from March to April, leaving 283,787 people without work statewide.
The April rate was up from 3% just one month earlier, but it wasn't as bad as the state's all-time high. State records dating to 1976 show Alabama's worst-ever jobless rate was 15.5% in December 1982, and historical accounts say state unemployment exceeded 20% during the Great Depression.
The worst cuts last month were in the leisure and hospitality industry, where 79,500 people lost their jobs in places like restaurants and hotels. About 29,500 people lost positions in professional services; the education and health services sector shed 26,400 jobs; and manufacturing lost 24,200 jobs.
Average weekly wages increased to $908.52 in April, up from $883.17.
Gov. Kay Ivey, who has moved to reopen the state's economy despite statistics showing the state is making only limited progress fighting the pandemic, said the high jobless rate was disappointing but not surprising.
“This global pandemic and national disaster has certainly impacted Alabamians’ ability to work," she said in a statement.
Geneva County in rural south Alabama had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 8.1%. But a state-high 26% of people are out of work in Lowndes County, just west of Montgomery.
While a state order allowed many new places including casinos, bingo halls and other entertainment venues to open with limited capacities and begin Friday afternoon, Jefferson County said it would extend restrictions in the state's most populous area through June 6.
The county health officer, Dr. Mark Wilson, said nightclubs, concert venues, theaters, performing arts center, and tourist attractions must remain closed.
“The reason we're doing this is that we are continuing to see some increases in cases of COVID-19 per day in Jefferson County. They've been trending up since that last order was issued statewide on May 8,” he told a news conference. Hospitalizations also are on the rise, he said.
Nearly 1,500 people have tested positive for the disease in the county and 86 have died.