The Iron Bowl of Low Unemployment Rates?
Tuscaloosa County and Lee County are home to two of the state's leading universities, Alabama and Auburn. The two campuses compete for dominance in everything. It is the "Iron Bowl" on and off the field. Now new statistics from the state reveal that competition carries over to which county has the lowest unemployment rate.
Based on August, the latest preliminary unemployment figures available from the Alabama Bureau of Labor Statistics, both Tuscaloosa and Lee Counties have a (not seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate of 2.3%. Among the state's 67 counties, Tuscaloosa County is ranked 49th and Lee 50th.
Nationally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks the Auburn Metropolitan area at 20th in low unemployment while Tuscaloosa County comes in at 26th.
Lee County gets the nod on ranking position based mainly on the difference in population. The much smaller Lee County counts 1,830 unemployed compared to Tuscaloosa County's 2,464 unemployed in August.
Lee County's unemployment rose by 0.1 percentage point from the previous month (July) while Tuscaloosa County remained unchanged.
Based on nationally accepted norms, both counties statistically have full employment.
According to White House Office of Management and Budget, five percent is considered full employment because, "that level of unemployment prevents inflation and lets workers move between jobs but is low enough that those wanting full-time work should be able to find some kind of full-time job".
Statistics from the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis reveal that since November of 2016 there has been only one major blip in full employment in Tuscaloosa County or Lee County - the COVID19 pandemic in 2020. In April of that year unemployment peaked at a high of 17.5% in Tuscaloosa County and 12.5% in Lee County.
With economic growth, student body increases and steady recruitment of new industries and business both counties look to keep unemployment rates for some time to come unless the national economy tanks.
With the holiday season approaching the Alabama Labor Department believes that current low unemployment in Tuscaloosa and Lee counties will shrink further through the end of the year.