- Associated Press - Friday, January 23, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.7 percent, its lowest since 2008.

Gov. Robert Bentley announced Friday that December’s seasonally adjusted rate is down from 6.0 percent in November, and it is lower than the 6.1 percent recorded a year ago. It is slightly above the national rate of 5.6 percent.

Alabama’s rate is the lowest since the state measured 5.4 percent in September 2008.

Among Alabama’s neighbors, Florida recorded 5.6 percent unemployment, Tennessee 6.6 percent and Georgia 6.9 percent. Mississippi’s rate will be announced Tuesday.

Bentley said 2104 ended on a positive note for Alabama, with unemployment staying at or below 7.0 percent the entire year. The average monthly employment in non-agricultural jobs during 2014 was 1.92 million, which was the highest since the state record 1.99 million in 2008.

State Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington said Alabama’s job growth during 2014 was 1.13 percent, the highest since Alabama measured 1.32 percent in 2007.

Over the year, Alabama gained 8,800 jobs in leisure and hospitality businesses, 7,200 in construction and 7,100 in manufacturing. Even government jobs, which had been on the decline, grew by 2,600. Nearly all types of non-agricultural jobs saw growth in 20154, but jobs in trade, transportation and utilities dropped by 2,600.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates for December are Shelby at 3.7 percent, Lee at 4.1 percent and Cullman at 4.2 percent. Counties with the highest rates are Wilcox at 12.5 percent, Bullock at 10.7 percent and Dallas at 10.1 percent.

For the governor, the declining unemployment rate means he’s getting closer to drawing a paycheck. When Bentley campaigned for office in 2010, he said he wouldn’t take a paycheck until unemployment dropped to 5.2 percent. The jobless rate was 8.9 when he took office in January 2011.

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