- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama’s unemployment rate has risen to 6.4 percent due, in part, to more people beginning to look for work.

The state Department of Labor announced Friday that February’s preliminary rate is up from 6.1 percent in January, but it’s below the same month last year, when Alabama measured 6.6 percent. It’s also below the national average of 6.7 percent.

Alabama had 137,256 unemployed people in February, up nearly 7,000 from January. The workforce grew by nearly 12,600 people to 2.1 million, and the number of people working grew by nearly 5,800 to 1.99 million.

State Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees said the increases in all three numbers “tell me that more people are out in the workforce - either looking for jobs or working, and that is good news.”

Keivan Deravi, an economist at Auburn University Montgomery who has studied Alabama’s economy for many years, attributed the higher unemployment rate to the severe weather in February and to people who had dropped out of the workforce resuming their search for a job. That means they are once again counted as unemployed members of the workforce.

He said it is normal for people who have quit looking for work to resume their search when they perceive the economy beginning to improve. He said a more important sign than the unemployment figure is the job creation over the last month and last year.

While Alabama had more people working in February in January, it had about 14,300 fewer working than a year ago.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby at 5.1 percent, Lee at 5.9 percent and Autauga at 6.3 percent.

Counties with the highest rates are Wilcox at 16.9 percent, Perry at 13.3 percent, and Dallas at 13.1 percent.

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