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County, state unemployment rates continue to climb in July

By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Escambia County’s unemployment rate in July was at 13.1 percent, up from 12.7 percent the month before.
The state rate ticked up slightly from 10.1 percent to 10.2 percent, an increase that Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said was slowing compared to the rest of the year.
Escambia County’s rate represents 1,936 unemployed workers. The unemployment rate has been steadily rising since last fall. The unemployment rate in December 2008 was 8.5 percent.
Escambia County businesses have seen some layoffs, and surrounding counties have also had plant closures and layoffs.
Of the five counties that share in the Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority, Conecuh and Monroe counties have the highest unemployment rates, at 19.4 and 18.2 percent, respectively.
During a town hall meeting in East Brewton Thursday, U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner briefly addressed the rising jobless rates. When he was in Monroeville for a similar meeting last week, he said, that he saw more than 500 families lined up to receive boxes of food at Alabama River Pulp.
Bonner said that while there are some signs of recovery, the federal stimulus act has not created the jobs that were promised. He is co-sponsoring a bill that would repeal the act so that no more money would be disbursed.
During its special session earlier this month, the Alabama Legislature passed a law that adds up to an additional 20 weeks of emergency benefits for unemployed workers in the state. The benefits — which are federally funded — are available to anyone who has exhausted all 59 weeks of benefits on or after March 29, Surtees said.
Claimants who are eligible will be notified by the Department of Industrial Relations by Aug. 28.