According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the county's unemployment rate dropped considerably to 7.1 percent in March from 8.2 percent in February. The decrease comes after the unemployment rate increased between January and February, a sign of a fluctuating but slowly improving job market, economists say.
The figures show the county added about 424 jobs in March. Meanwhile, the county's workforce decreased by 153 people, further lowering the area's unemployment rate. The drop gives the county a lower unemployment rate than the 7.4 percent rate it had in March 2012.
The county's job gains were mainly in trade and transportation, retail, leisure and hospitality.
Keivan Deravi, economist at Auburn University Montgomery, said gaining jobs while simultaneously losing job seekers is a sign the area economy is improving, albeit very slowly. The economy has struggled to recover since the 2008 economic recession.
"When people get a positive vibe about the economy, they all try to get in," Deravi said. "Then they get in, get disappointed and go out and so the labor force goes up and down."
The county's unemployment rate is slightly lower than the state average rate of 7.2 percent, which remained unchanged between February and March, due mainly to growth in the available work force and a gain of almost 7,000 jobs.
"This month we continued to see the labor force grow, which tells us more people are gaining confidence in the job market," said Tom Surtees, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Labor, in a Friday press release. "We also saw the number of people with jobs grow by nearly 7,000, with only a slight increase in the number of unemployed."
James Cover, economist at the University of Alabama, said that like Calhoun County, the state's job market is improving slowly.
"People are more confident about the labor market, but it's a small change though," Cover said. "Everything is just changing very slowly, but it's going in the right direction."
Deravi said that for the state to have really consistent, faster economic improvement, it would need to create between 20,000 and 22,000 jobs every month.
"That would pick up people looking for jobs voluntarily and people reentering the workforce," Deravi said. "A 7,000 jobs gain is good but we're not at the recovered stage ... it's still the recovering stage."
Staff Writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.