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Alabama jobless rate jumps to 6.1 percent, up from 5.8 percent in April

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MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama's unemployment rate climbed to 6.1 percent last month, state officials said Friday, making it more than a half-percent worse than the national average.

The May jobless rate jumped three-tenths of a percentage point from 5.8 percent in April. By comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percent to 5.5 percent during the same period.

State unemployment hasn't been as high since December, when it was also 6.1 percent.

Despite the numbers, Gov. Robert Bentley's administration said the news isn't bad because wage and salary numbers grew by 9,400 positions in May, rising to 1.96 million.

"Both employment measures registered gains, which is clear evidence that Alabamians are going back to work," Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington said in a statement. "We haven't seen wage and salary employment this high in May since 2008."

Employment can grow and unemployment still rise if more people are looking for jobs than before. Unemployment increased partly because more people entered the workforce with the approach of summer, Washington said.

The administration said the wage and salary growth numbers — 34,800 jobs in the first five months of the year — are exceeding estimates made earlier this year by the University of Alabama.

"Our effort to create jobs is strong, and we will continue until every Alabamian has an opportunity to find a job," Bentley said in a statement.

But the increase in unemployment seemed to dim Bentley's chances of taking home a paycheck anytime soon. Bentley has promised not to accept his salary until the state's unemployment rate drops to 5.2 percent.

Shelby County in metro Birmingham has the state's lowest unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, followed by Lee and Elmore counties at 5.1 percent.

Unemployment is worst in rural Wilcox County, located in west Alabama. The jobless rate there is 15.6 percent.

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