Newswire: Alabama Black Belt unemployment rates consistently high

A new study brief issued by the Educational Policy Center of the University of Alabama, showed that the unemployment rate in the Alabama Black Belt Counties was consistently higher than for the state as a whole. This brief was one of a series issued by the Center on conditions in the Black Belt counties.
Chart 1 shows that the Black Belt’s unemployment rate closely parallels that of Alabama, but is often two, three, or even four percentage points higher—and this does not include discouraged workers.
The 18 Alabama counties with the highest unemployment rates were all in the Black Belt. The three counties with the highest unemployment rates—Wilcox, Clarke, and Greene counties, at 6.9 percent, 5.9 percent, and 5.8 percent, respectively—were all in the Black Belt, and had unemployment rates double the statewide rate of 2.7 percent.
While every county in Alabama saw improved unemployment rates in 2019 compared to 2018, Black Belt counties had a very different and higher starting point, as Chart 3 (on the following page) shows. Nationally, Alabama saw the largest percentage decline in its unemployment rate among all fifty states from November 2018 to November 2019 (-1.2 percent compared to -0.4 percent). The Alabama statewide unemployment rate of 2.7 percent rate was tenth lowest in the United States. This sparkling performance has not fully extended to the Black Belt region, however.
So much of the country’s economy—indeed the world’s—is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown measures. Following a period of extended low unemployment across the country, and historically low unemployment in Alabama, unemployment rose to over 14 percent nationally. As Chart 1 showed, there has existed a considerable chasm between the Black Belt and Alabama as a whole in terms of unemployment. Another chart in the report, shows the June 2020 unemployment rates by county. Nine of the 10 counties with the highest rate of unemployment are in the Black Belt, while 17 of the 24 Black Belt counties are above the Alabama average of 8.2 percent. These figures suggest a long recovery ahead for Alabama’s Black Belt, a region that—despite significant growth—was behind the rest of the state going into the pandemic recession.
From Issue Brief No. 45, by Hunter D. Whann, Noel E. Keeney, Stephen G. Katsinas, and Emily Jacobs of the Educational Policy Center at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.