In this May 7, 2020, file photo, a pedestrian walks by a business closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul Sancya | AP Photo
Alabama’s unemployment rate for April was a jaw-dropping 12.9 percent, the highest in almost four decades and almost 10 percentage points higher than the previous month.
The number shows the havoc left by the coronavirus lockdown measures on the state’s economy. The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent in April, the highest rate since the Great Depression, as 20.5 million jobs vanished in the worst monthly loss on record.
March eventually saw a revised level of 3 percent in Alabama, as the lockdown took effect in the later part of the month. More than 450,000 Alabamians have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus-fueled shutdown of businesses began in March.
The previous highest unemployment rate the state ever recorded was during the last recession, in October, November and December of 2009, when it was 11.8 percent. Before that, one has to go back to Dec. 1982, when the state posted a 15.5 percent rate.
Alabama Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington said those counted as employed decreased to 1,911,512 in April, down from March’s count of 2,151,586. The number likely reflected not only those who lost jobs but those furloughed or laid off during the closure of businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“This pandemic has negatively impacted Alabama’s economy and in two months’ time has managed to undo years of positive progress,” Washington said. “But the impact to our employers and workers who carry the economy is even greater. So many had life altering changes that impacted their families almost overnight.”
The hardest hit sector was leisure and hospitality, which saw a loss of 79,500 jobs, more than twice the number of any other category.
The professional and business services sector saw 29,500 jobs lost, while education and health services sector lost 26,400 jobs, and manufacturing 24,200.
Counties seeing the most job losses were Lowndes County at 26 percent unemployed, Wilcox County at 22.8 percent and Greene County at 22.2 percent. Cities with the highest unemployment were Selma at 23.4 percent, Anniston at 22.1 percent and Gadsden at 22 percent.
Washington said the Labor Department is “developing new technologies, adding staff, and making modifications wherever possible to help our workers through this enormously difficult time.”