According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the county’s unemployment rate decreased to 6.5 percent in April from 7.1 percent in March. The improvement was in keeping with many other counties in Alabama — a promising sign of economic growth that could continue for the next few months, some economic experts say.
The statistics show that Alabama's average unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in April from 7.2 percent in March after a gain of 17,836 jobs. Calhoun County gained 645 jobs during the same time period.
"Like last month, the positives continued to increase for Alabama counties," said Tom Surtees, commissioner for the Alabama Department of Labor in a press release Friday. "All of the counties saw drops in their rates, including a significant drop of 2.4 percentage points in Lowndes County's rate."
The latest growth places Alabama below the national average unemployment rate in of 7.5 percent in April. Alabama gained 17,836 jobs last month.
"We are faring considerably better than the national average, which is good," said Robert Robicheaux, chairman of the department of marketing, industrial distribution and economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Robicheaux said the state's job market has been improving at a relatively slow, consistent pace all year. Like the rest of the country, Alabama's economy has been struggling to realize the growth it had prior to the 2008 recession.
"We should continue to improve at a slow and steady pace ... that's the outlook for the next 12 to 18 months," Robicheaux said. "We're heading in the right direction."
Keivan Deravi, economist at Auburn University Montgomery, said he was surprised at the rate Alabama has gained jobs in the past month. Deravi said the state's jobs gain in April was particularly good, since it will take the creation of around 20,000 jobs a month to really get Alabama back on track and out of the recession.
"At this rate, we could bring unemployment down to 6.4 percent or 6.3 percent by the end of the year," Deravi said. "The numbers are really encouraging."
Deravi said much of Alabama's job market growth this year has been in the service industries, along with minor gains in manufacturing and construction. He said the the health care industry has also had growth. Unlike many other industries, health care has managed to grow through much of the recession due to the needs of the aging baby boomer population.
Robicheaux said the state has had gains due to the strengthening auto industry. Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln has added hundreds of jobs in the last few months due to expansion efforts.
"And we're being particularly buoyed because we have a strong health care business in the state ... with lots of suppliers," Robicheaux said.
David McCormack, CEO of Regional Medical Center in Anniston, said the hospital hires new people nearly every month and has been expanding, including a clinic in Roanoke and a recent one in Piedmont.
"That's where we've been hiring people mainly," McCormack said of the expansion efforts.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.