Alabama's Labor Department has agreed to work with the U.S. Department of Labor to crack down on businesses that classify people as independent contractors when they are really regular employees.
Alabama Labor Commissioner Fitzgerald Washington and the U.S. Department of Labor's regional director for the wage and hour division, Wayne Kotowski, signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday in Montgomery. Kotowski said Alabama is the 16th state to sign an agreement to share information and coordinate enforcement.
Governor Robert Bentley has appointed Fitzgerald Washington to be the next Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Labor.
Washington has spent the last 15 years working for The Buffalo Rock Company. While there he served as Corporate Marketing and Sales Director handling the company’s multicultural marketing initiatives before being promoted to General Sales Manager in 2002.
Governor Bentley also appointed Washington to the Alabama Workforce Council. Washington replaces Tom Surtees who stepped down as labor commissioner late last month.
Alabama's unemployment rate measured 6.3 percent for August.
The state Department of Labor says the rate is up from July's revised figure of 6.2 percent, but it is well below the 7.5 percent rate from July 2012. It is also below the national rate of 7.3 percent.
The new figures show the number of unemployed Alabamians stayed about the same from July to August, but the number of people employed and the size of the labor force declined.
Alabama's unemployment rate dropped to 6.5 percent in June, which is lowest rate in more than four years.
The state Department of Labor said the June rate was down from 6.8 percent in May, and it was the lowest rate recorded since Alabama hit the same figure in November 2008. It was also below the national figure of 7.6 percent.
The rate was supposed to be announced Friday, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inadvertently released it early. State officials then provided details of the new rate.
Many long-term unemployed Alabamians will see their benefits drop 12.8 percent on April 28.
State Labor Department spokeswoman Tara Hutchison said the reductions are the result of mandatory federal spending cuts that all states must make. The cuts will affect people who have been receiving unemployment benefits for more than six months. Currently, about 16,500 Alabamians receive the extended benefits.
The long-term unemployed in Alabama will be among the first to feel automatic federal budget cuts scheduled to take effect Friday.
A spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Labor says federal officials have advised the department to prepare for a cut of 9 percent to 10 percent in unemployment benefits for Alabamians who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits and are now getting the extended 37 weeks of federal benefits.
Gov. Robert Bentley said Friday that December's rate of 7.1 percent is down from 7.5 percent in November. It's the fourth month for a decline since measuring 8.5 percent in August. The December rate is also better than the 8 percent measured a year ago.
The state Department of Labor reports that Alabama gained 7,600 manufacturing jobs during the last year, and professional and business services jobs grew by 4,500.
The Alabama Department of Industrial Relations and the Alabama Department of Labor will merge Oct. 1, with the new department known as the Department of Labor.
Labor Commissioner Jim Bennett is retiring after nine years in the post, and Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees will lead the combined department.
The Legislature approved the merger with the support of the governor, and it's supposed to save $100,000 to $200,000 per year. Surtees said that will come from eliminating rent and other operating expenses and consolidating functions.