- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama’s unemployment rate is declining, but it remains above the national average.

Gov. Robert Bentley announced Friday that the rate dropped to 6.6 percent in September from 6.9 percent in August.

“September’s unemployment rate is the lowest rate we’ve seen in seven months, and we are confident that this trend will continue,” Bentley said.

Alabama had about 6,600 fewer unemployed people in September than in August, the preliminary numbers released by the governor’s office show. But the seasonally adjusted figures also showed that the number of employed Alabamians declined by about 1,600 and the civilian labor force shrank by nearly 8,200. Those numbers are based on estimates.

Alabama’s unemployment rate for September was higher than the 6.4 percent recorded in September 2013, and it remained above the national unemployment figure of 5.9 percent.

When only nonagricultural jobs were considered, Alabama saw a gain of about 12,700 wage and salary jobs to 1.94 million from August to September. The gain from September 2013 was 31,600 jobs. Bentley said the September number was the highest since December 2008. Growth occurred in manufacturing, education and some types of service jobs.

Keivn Deravi, an economist at Auburn University Montgomery, said the wage and salary jobs are a more important measurement than the unemployment number because they are based on reports by employers rather than estimates based on surveys. He said one of the most important items in the wage and salary numbers is the significant growth Alabama has seen in professional and business services jobs, which include engineers, architects, company managers and other well-paying positions. They account for 7,900 more jobs than in September 2013.

Not all states have released their September unemployment figures yet, but among Alabama’s neighbors, Georgia recorded 7.9 percent and Florida 6.1 percent.

Alabama Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington said every Alabama county registered a decline in unemployment in September.

Counties with the lowest rates were Shelby at 4.4 percent, Lee at 5.2 percent and Cullman at 5.5 percent. Counties with the highest rates were Wilcox at 13.9 percent, Lowndes at 12.5 percent and Dallas at 12.1 percent.

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