PHILLIP RAWLSMONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) â¿¿ Alabama's unemployment rate has declined for the second month to 8.1 percent. The state Department of Commerce announced Friday that October's rate is down from a revised rate of 8.2 percent in September. The preliminary rate had been 8.3 percent. Alabama's unemployment rate increased for four months during the late spring and summer, hitting 8.5 percent in August before declining the last two. Nearly 9,000 more Alabama residents were working in October than in the prior month. "That's an encouraging sign we're headed in the right direction," Gov. Robert Bentley said. The state's labor force grew by more than 6,000 after shrinking for much of the last year. Unemployment declined by about 2,600 with 175, 013 people looking for work. "This month everything worked out the way we wish it would always work out," Labor Commissioner Tom Surtees said. Alabama is still above the national rate of 7.9 percent, but it was below the 8.7 percent in Georgia, 8.5 percent in Florida and 8.2 percent in Tennessee. The rate was also below the 8.5 percent that Alabama recorded a year ago, but there were nearly 7,000 more people working last October than last month. The reason the unemployment rate was higher a year ago was because the labor force had about 18,000 more people last October. The labor force shrinks when people retire, move out of state or give up on finding a job. Counties with the lowest unemployment rates were Shelby at 5.4 percent, Coffee and Madison at 6.6 percent, and Lee and St. Clair at 6.7 percent. Counties with the highest rates were Wilcox at 17.6 percent, Bullock at 16.2 percent and Dallas at 14.8 percent.