Alabama jobless rate dips to 6.1 percent, Freedom Riders anniversary

May 20, 2016

Alabama's unemployment rate is down slightly to 6.1 percent.

Wage and salary employment increased by 16,500 jobs in April, with the largest number of jobs coming in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. The professional and business services sector added another 3,500 jobs.

The state's jobless rate remains well above the national rate of 5 percent, however.

Alabama unemployment is worst in Wilcox County at 12.8 percent. Shelby County has the state's lowest job rate at 4 percent.

The Alabama Historical Commission is recognizing the 55th anniversary of the Freedom Rides in Montgomery today and tomorrow. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more on the Freedom Riders and what they had to endure...

In 1961, dozens of civil rights advocates, mostly black students, pledged to ride interstate buses through the Southeast to challenge the lack of enforcement of bus desegregation laws. One group was assaulted by a segregationist mob at a bus station in Montgomery. That bus station is now a civil rights museum, and Freedom Riders from across the country are gathering there today to share their story.

One of those Freedom Riders is Birmingham native Catherine Burks-Brooks. She says it was remarkably quiet in Montgomery – at first.

“All of a sudden, looked like thousands of white people came from all over. Even women with babies in their hands, screaming ‘Kill those niggers, kill those niggers.’”

Various commemoration events are planned for this evening and tomorrow in Montgomery.

Gulf Shores has a few extra visitors today as thousands of music fans are packing the beach for Hangout Music Fest.

Alabama’s biggest festival kicked off earlier this afternoon. Notable acts this year include Alabama natives Jason Isbell and the Alabama Shakes along with performances from dozens of other bands and artists. Hangout started in 2010 as a way to keep up tourism on the Gulf Coast in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Emily Gonzalez is the Marketing and Public Relations Director for Kaiser Realty in Gulf Shores. She says the festival first started with a group effort from the business community to make the best out of a bad situation.

“We all kind of joined forces and went to the city and said ‘Hey, we would really support this, and we could really use the help.’ The oil spill happened early in April, but the oil didn’t hit the beach until the week after the festival, and it really did a lot to bring crowds and attention to the area.”

And Hangout has been bringing those crowds back, selling out nearly every year since. This year’s festival will run today through Sunday.