Alabama's unemployment rate has dropped to 6.1 percent.
Gov. Robert Bentley says that's a five-year low. The last time Alabama has a rate at or below 6.1 percent was October 2008, when the rate was 5.9 percent.
The state Labor Department says December's rate of 6.1 percent compares to 6.2 percent in November and 6.8 percent a year ago. Alabama's rate is below the national average of 6.7 percent. Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby at 3.8 percent, Lee at 4.7 percent and St. Clair and Cullman at 4.8 percent.
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 had the second lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast in July.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Virginia's rate of 5.7 percent was lower than Alabama's rate of 6.3 percent. The bureau also reports that Alabama had one of the nation's biggest drops in unemployment from a year ago, when Alabama's rate measured 7.6 percent. Only seven states exceeded Alabama's drop of 1.3 percentage points over the last year.
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 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.