Calhoun Co. employment dips in January
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Mar 18, 2013 | 10199 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Glenda Miller expected to find a job within a few weeks after she entered the unemployment lines in December.

The Heflin resident is still searching.

"I really thought I'd just jump in it and find something," said Miller, who previously worked 11 years at Hilton Head Hospitality in Anniston. "But then when I found myself getting out there I said, 'You know, this is not as easy as I thought.'"

Miller's job hunting difficulties are understandable. After several months of relatively flat unemployment, the county's unemployment rate spiked 1.3 percent in January, as the workforce shrank by 1,097 workers, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

"That's not a good sign," said James Cover, professor of economics at the University of Alabama. "People who have lost jobs haven't been able to find new ones."

The statistics show the county's unemployment rate jumped to 8.1 percent in January, from 6.8 percent in December. The county's January rate was higher than the state average of 6.9 percent and higher than its own January rate last year at 7.7 percent.

The figures indicate the county had 1,097 fewer employed people in January than in December. The county's total civilian labor force also decreased by 421 people. The county lost jobs in the manufacturing, retail, transportation, leisure and hospitality sectors, as well as federal government employment.

Keivan Deravi, economist at Auburn University Montgomery, said the county's unemployment rate increase was significant.

"In light of the fact that the labor force is also going down ... that's a pretty significant jump," Deravi said. "You have people just leaving the labor force completely or leaving the county."

In contrast with the county, Alabama's unemployment rate was relatively flat, with a 6.9 percent rate in January compared to a 6.8 percent rate in December. The state's average unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in January last year.

"Alabama is essentially unchanged," Cover said.

Miller said she has done everything she can in the past few months to find a job, from contacting staffing companies to checking The Star's want ads every day and visiting the Operation 1st Rate office at Quintard Mall. Operation 1st Rate is administered by the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce and helps unemployed residents find work, particularly those laid off from the Anniston Army Depot and chemical weapons incinerator.

"You've got to have a lot of technology skills now-a-days," Miller said, which she learned during her job hunting experience.

But even entry level and retail jobs have eluded her so far, Miller said.

Sherri Sumners, overseer of Operation 1st Rate, said her organization had more than 30 people at its office Monday and 20 people there Friday, participating in pre-employment testing for open jobs at the Southwire Company in Carrollton, Ga.

Sumners said this was the first time her organization had focused just on pre-employment testing for job-seekers.

"We're trying to branch out to do more things to help people find work," Sumners said.

To date, Operation 1st Rate has helped 157 people find new work - jobs with a total payroll of $4.57 million and a total economic impact of $11.9 million.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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