By Andrew Edwards
Like most communities across the state, Elmore County has been impacted greatly by the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past year, unemployment skyrocketed to heights not seen since the Great Depression.
But even in the face of adversity and turmoil, Elmore County has found a way to not only weather the storm, but to thrive with the challenges they were given.
In the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics latest March 31 report, the unemployment rate for Alabama was listed at 3.8 percent while Elmore County’s was found to be 2.7 percent.
But that month was no anomaly.
In April of 2020, the month most impacted by the pandemic, the Alabama unemployment rate average stood at a whopping 13.20 percent. In Elmore County, that percentile found itself to be 10.70 percent.
While still high, that average was much lower than most counties in Alabama – and given counties like Montgomery and Jefferson which had unemployment rates of 14.7 and 12.6 percent respectively for the month of April in 2020, it’s fair to say that Elmore officials and businesses did an excellent job of managing their communities, says Elmore County District 4 Commissioner Bart Mercer.
“It’s a testament to the stable economy that we have, and it shows the hard work of our citizens and businesses. Our economic development authority continues to work with our chambers and cities, and their shared goal to continuously improve the Elmore County economy is what makes it all work,” Mercer said.
Elmore County Economic Development Authority Executive Director, Cary Cox, echoed several of Mercer’s thoughts.
“2.7% unemployment coming out of Covid is something that Elmore County should be extremely proud of. As you look at the data it reaffirms what we already knew; the citizens of Elmore County are hard-working, dedicated employees,” Cox said.
“What the data doesn’t show is we have over 23,000 residents that commute out of Elmore County each day; further testament to their devotedness. We are recruiting business and industry that will be a good fit for us which will allow our citizens to provide a great workforce locally.”
Even in the midst of an economic upswing, Elmore County does still have some issues. In fact, many entry level jobs are struggling to find employees.
“As you delve into the data a little deeper; you notice our labor participation rate is lower than this time last year mirroring state and national trends. This seems like an anomaly especially since we know that Elmore County’s population is growing,” Cox said.
The reason for the low participation rate stems from government assistance, Cox explained.
“A significant number of people dropping out of the workforce is directly tied to government stimulus programs. The single biggest competitor for labor; especially in entry level positions, is the federal government. No need to debate the pros and cons of stimulus programs, but the facts are that some people will chose to not work if they make close to, equal, or sometimes more than they can working,” Cox said.
Ultimately, the issue at hand will come down to how long the government will continue to provide exponential assistance, Cox says.
“As long as the government continues to provide this assistance it’s not too far-fetched to believe that these trends will continue. They can’t continue to give away money forever, though. At least, I hope not,” Cox said.