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 Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees is stepping down after a decade of leading major state agencies for two governors.
It's rare for someone to serve in key positions in two administrations. Surtees was hired as state revenue commissioner in 2004 by Gov. Bob Riley. Then he moved to the Department of Industrial Relations in 2007. He remained in the post when Gov. Robert Bentley took office in 2011, and he became labor commissioner when the departments of Industrial Relations and Labor were merged under Bentley.
The state Department of Labor says Alabama's March unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, which is three-tenths of a percent higher than the February rate. It's also above the March 2013 rate of 6.6 percent.
The job rate represents 144,628 unemployed people. But the number of people in the labor force also grew by more than 14,000 people, and the number of working Alabamians increased by 7,000.
The state labor commissioner, Tom Surtees, says the unemployment rate is up because of the growth in the labor force.
Alabama's unemployment rate rose to 7.2 percent in February.
The rate announced by the state Department of Labor is up from 6.9 percent in January and is equal to the rate a year ago. The number of unemployed people looking for work grew by more than 6,000 from January.
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.