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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's unemployment rate has increased for the first time since last summer.
State officials announced Friday that the rate rose from 7.2 percent in April to 7.4 percent in May.
Gov. Robert Bentley said the increase was expected because the national rate increased from 8.1 percent in April to 8.2 percent in May and Alabama's rate traditionally goes up a little in May. State Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said that's due, in part, to new high school and college graduates entering the workforce. He said that was reflected in the state's labor force increasing by 6,000 people in May.
He said the higher rate in May also stems from education employees who aren't working in the summer months.
"But when you look at the state's long-term trend, our unemployment figures now are much lower than they were at this time last year. Additionally, we have announced thousands of new jobs that are coming to the state with new and expanding industry," Bentley said.
Alabama's unemployment rate in May 2011 was 9.3 percent. The rate hit 10.0 percent in July 2011 and then declined for the next nine months before ticking up in May.
May's figure represents more than 159,000 Alabama residents looking for work, an increase of about 5,000 from the previous month But it's about 44,000 less than a year ago.
Counties with the lowest unemployment rate were Shelby at 5.2 percent, Coffee at 6.3 percent and Limestone at 6.4 percent. Counties with the highest rates were Wilcox at 16.2 percent, Lowndes at 15.0 percent, and Dallas at 13.3 percent.