The Shoals saw a marked increase in its unemployment rate in January, but officials said that could be attributed to a normal seasonal climb.
The rate for January, which is the most recent numbers available, was 7.7 percent, according to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations.
That is 1.4 percent above the December rate of 6.3 percent.
Statewide, the rate is 6.9 percent, just up from 6.8 percent in December.
Tara Hutchison, spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Labor, said a possible reason for such an increase in county numbers compared to statewide ones could be that state figures are seasonally adjusted. County and metropolitan statistical areas are not.
“So the counties are not taking in any of the seasonality,” Hutchison said.
She said unemployment numbers typically drop in December because of the Christmas season hiring, particularly in retail sectors.
“In January you generally do see an increase because you see a lot of holiday workers being let go,” Hutchison said. “Also, some manufacturers have a lot of shutdowns in January. We don’t track the industries like we do for the state.”
She said the same type of jump is common in May and June when students search for summer work.
“The thing to do is watch the rate over a period of time rather than one month at a time,” Hutchison said.
The 7.7 percent rate represents 5,291 Shoals residents looking for work, according to labor statistics. That number was 4,423 in December. In January 2012, it was 5,245.
The Shoals’ metropolitan area consists of Colbert and Lauderdale counties.
The unemployment rate for the Shoals was 7.6 percent in January 2012, according to the figures.
Broken down by county, Colbert’s January unemployment rate was 8.2 percent, compared to 6.7 percent in December. Lauderdale’s was 7.4 percent, compared to 6.2 percent in December.
Franklin County’s rate was 8.9 percent, compared to 7.1 percent in December.
Steve Holt, president of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, was surprised by the high numbers because those figures had been trending downward.
But Holt pointed out nearly all 11 Alabama metropolitan areas saw similar percentages of upswings in unemployment in January. He said the Shoals has had low unemployment rates in recent months.
“Since May or June we’ve been consistently in the top four metropolitan statistical areas in low rates,” Holt said. “We were tied for fourth in December and are tied for fifth in January. There certainly have been no big layoffs. That seasonal unemployment did have some impact.”
The highest January unemployment rate was in Wilcox County, at 17.4 percent. The lowest was Shelby County’s 5.4 percent.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.