MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama's unemployment rate dipped to 6.9 percent in April as more people found restored faith in the job market and started looking for work again, state officials said Friday.
Gov. Robert Bentley said the preliminary April rate is below the 7.2 percent recorded in March and the 7.4 percent measured a year ago. All Alabama counties saw their unemployment rates drop in April, state Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees said.
The last time Alabama had an unemployment rate this low was in January. After that, the rate inched up and then began declining again.
Bentley said the state saw positive signs in April with the civilian labor force increasing by more than 13,000 workers from March to 2.18 million. Bentley said that showed more people are regaining confidence in the job market and starting to look for work. The number of working Alabamians grew by more than 17,800 to 2.03 million, and the number of unemployed dropped by about 4,500 to 150,503.
The biggest job gains were 7,100 in leisure and hospitality with the approach of the summer tourist season and 2,200 in construction. Government jobs declined slightly, mostly in education.
Bentley told chamber of commerce executives from across the state on Wednesday that his administration has announced more than 40,000 jobs from new and expanding industries since January 2011, and he expects to keep seeing a decline in the unemployment rate as those industries open.
Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in April were Shelby at 4.0 percent, Lee at 4.9 percent and Blount at 5.0 percent. The counties with the highest rates were Wilcox at 14.8 percent, Perry at 11.7 percent and Dallas at 11.4 percent.
Figures compiled by the Department of Labor showed the counties with the highest rates tended to be in the southern two-thirds of the state. Only one county north of Jefferson County had a rate exceeding 7.7 percent, which was Winston County at 8.0 percent.