After a 10-year trend of falling unemployment rates in the Shoals, local officials are bracing today for the newest monthly jobs report.

The report released from the Alabama Department of Labor will show job figures from April.

With the exception of the first three days of that month, Alabama was under stay-at-home orders by Gov. Kay Ivey due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That included all four weekends of the month before being reduced to a safer-at-home order that started at 5 p.m. April 30.

Following a recession that saw local unemployment rise as high as 12.8% in January 2010, the Shoals Metropolitan Statistic Area, which is comprised of Lauderdale and Colbert counties, enjoyed a steady pace of lower unemployment rates.

The rate dropped to a 2.7% figure in November 2019. Local leaders say they don't remember it ever reaching that low in the past.

Since that time, the numbers have remained low at 3% in December, 3.7% in January, 3.3% in February and 3.6%t in March, according to the department.

April, however, saw many temporary and permanent closings of businesses nationwide, including in the Shoals.

Unemployment claims in the Shoals, which had been as few as 50 during the week ending March 14, ballooned to 3,680 during the week ending April 4, according to the labor department.

Those numbers have decreased by a great deal in the weeks since then, falling to 656 for the week ending May 16, according to labor department figures released Thursday.

That gives some reason for optimism going into today's announcement of Shoals unemployment numbers.

"I really don't think they're going to be sky high," said Kevin Jackson, president of the Shoals Economic Development Authority. "That's just me guessing. I would definitely think they're going to be temporary.

"While we are in sort of a recession, I think it'll be more of a short one than a long one. It's not like 2008 when there was more of a financial cause than a pandemic."

Jackson said he doesn't expect to see unemployment percentages as low as 2% to 3% anytime soon, but expects things to become more stable if business operations resume normally over the next couple of months.

"I think gradually you will see it tick back down," he said. "I talk a lot with people in north Alabama, and they all feel the same way. The numbers won't get back to as low as they were, but will kind of level off into a better number."

Jackson said he hopes the diverse economy in the Shoals helps it bounce back.

"The fortunate thing is a lot of our industries are still working," he said. "What you're going see is in a lot of service industries like retail and tourism — that's what those numbers are going to reflect."

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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