Connect with us

Guest Columnists

State of the workforce

Fitzgerald Washington

Published

on

Fitzgerald Washington
Secretary, Alabama Department of Labor

We’re at the beginning of another year, and ready to see continued improvement in our economy. At the Alabama Department of Labor, we are busy wrapping up the facts and figures for 2016. There were many improvements last year, and I’d like to let people know about them.

We ended the year with our wage and salary employment only 17,000 jobs away from reaching two million. I can’t emphasize how great this news is! The last time our economy supported two million jobs was back in 2007, before the recession, before tens of thousands of Alabamians were relying on unemployment compensation to help support their families, and before our unemployment levels reached record highs. A wage and salary employment level of two million is considered to be a benchmark employment figure. I’m hopeful that we’ll reach that milestone in 2017.

As employers’ confidence was sustained and hiring rose, Alabamians continue to join the workforce. We ended 2016 with the largest workforce we’ve had in more than five years. Additionally, more people were working in December 2016 than at any time since April 2008. Employers are hiring, and workers are working. Those who don’t have jobs are looking for jobs, which tells us they believe there are jobs to be had. All of these are positive signs for our economy.

Our manufacturing industry continues to lead our economy. In 2016, Alabama ranked third nation-wide in manufacturing employment growth (year over year December). These competitive, sought-after jobs carry wages of more than $20 an hour.

As far as unemployment compensation goes, the amount we are paying in benefits and the number of people filing for those benefits are at seven year lows. Those who are receiving benefits are only doing so, on average, for around 14 weeks, which is significantly less than during the recession, when up to 99 weeks were available and some were using all of them.

Last year, we paid out over $183 million in Work Opportunity Tax Credits, more than $71 million higher than in 2015. These are credits that employers can take advantage of when they hire certain individuals, such as the long-term unemployed and food stamp recipients, among others. These are dollars that are going right back into our economy to spur spending and encourage hiring.

Public Service Announcement

Job orders on the state’s free jobs database, www.joblink.alabama.gov, were at five year highs, with several months registering more than 30,000 orders!

With all of these positives, we still realize that there is work to be done. Even though there are more people working now than in nearly a decade, there are still more than 130,000 Alabamians who are out of work. Our mission, just like that of Governor Robert Bentley, is to make sure that these citizens have the opportunity to get a job, to support their families, and to live a quality life. In order to meet these obligations, we’re setting a few goals:

  • First, we’re aiming to keep 2017’s yearly average unemployment rate below the yearly average unemployment rate of 2016 (5.9%).

In order to keep the unemployment rate low, it’s important that we maintain employment levels. This means working with the Governor, state agencies, economic development groups, and local governments in order to keep jobs in Alabama and recruit new ones. Since taking office in 2011, Governor Bentley’s administration recruited 92,000 jobs to the state. These cooperative agreements are beneficial to all involved.

  • We’re also focusing our efforts to surpass economists’ estimates for job growth in 2017.
ADVERTISEMENT

In January of this year, economists predicted that Alabama will gain 18,700 jobs in 2017. We hope to surpass that number, as we have for the past three years. In 2016, the prediction was for growth of 29,450. For the period covering January 2016 to December 2016, jobs grew by 49,600, bypassing the predictions by 20,150! Again, as employers maintain their confidence in the economy and continue to hire, hopefully, this goal will be an easy one to meet.

  • We want to increase awareness of free, valuable services available at our 49 Career Centers located throughout the state.

Our Career Centers offer so many wonderful services for both jobseekers and employers. The best part is that they are offered at no charge! Nearly half a million Alabamians were served in 2016, and we hope to increase that number this year. Our regional job fairs, hosted in Montgomery, Dothan, and Birmingham last year, drew more than 12,000 jobseekers to speak with more than 400 employers. We’re bringing our job fairs to other regions of the state this year. Come out and see us! Find out more information about any of our services at www.labor.alabama.gov.

 

Advertisement
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Sena Angrisano

    August 14, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    I just want to tell you that I am newbie to blogging and honestly enjoyed your web page. Likely I’m planning to bookmark your site . You definitely have very good posts. Thank you for revealing your website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Celebrating the Nineteenth Amendment

Bradley Byrne

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

On August 18, the U.S. will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to our Constitution which guaranteed women’s right to vote.  The women’s suffrage movement in our country began in the 1840s as women abolitionists saw the parallels between the effort to free enslaved Americans and their own desire to vote.  A convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 which produced an organized group led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, among others.

The two movements worked together until women suffragists became angered over the fact the Fifteenth Amendment gave freed slaves the right to vote but didn’t extend that right to women.  Over the next 50 years women suffragists labored to gain the franchise.  One bloc worked to pass a constitutional amendment at the national level while another focused on the individual states.  The Wyoming Territory was the first to give women the right to vote in 1869, followed by the Utah Territory and Idaho.

Momentum built in the 1910s when Washington state, California, Oregon, Arizona, Kansas, the Alaska Territory, Montana, and Nevada gave women the right to vote.  But, states in the East and South were reluctant to do so and the effort to add a constitutional amendment picked up speed.  While Republicans were generally supportive, Democrats weren’t.  President Woodrow Wilson preferred a state by state approach, but suffragist leaders kept up the heat, even sneaking a banner challenging him into his speech to a joint session of Congress.

When the US entered World War I some wanted the suffragists to back off, but they indignantly fought on with the argument that the fight for freedom and democracy in Europe should be paralleled at home with a constitutional amendment enfranchising the one half of the U.S. population denied the right to vote.  By 1918, President Wilson changed his mind.  The House passed the amendment, but the Senate couldn’t get the two thirds required vote even after Wilson took the unprecedented step of addressing them on the Senate floor.

Suffragist pressure finally swayed enough votes to get Senate passage in 1919, and ratification was achieved with Tennessee’s vote on August 18, 1920.  It’s hard to imagine that my two grandmothers, both adult women with families of their own, weren’t allowed to vote until that year.  The Nineteenth Amendment is too often a forgotten part of our history, but I hope we will use this anniversary to remember how important it continues to be.

When I look around Alabama, I see the fruit of the suffragists’ labor.  We have a female governor in Kay Ivey and two female members of Congress, Martha Roby and Terry Sewell.  Women serve as Federal judges, state appellate and court judges, district attorneys, and in the Legislature.  I work with women county commissioners, mayors, and city council members across the First District.  They, each of them, make great contributions to our quality of life and the administration of justice.

My little granddaughter, Ann-Roberts, is a very smart and active girl.  I have no idea what she will do when she grows up, but she’ll be darn good at whatever that is.  Imagine telling her she can’t vote or hold public office.  I can’t.  And, I’m glad my grandmothers finally got to vote.  It took far too long to give it to them.  Let’s remember this important anniversary and the value to all of us of our previous right to vote.

Public Service Announcement

Continue Reading

Economy

Opinion | Alabama’s workers deserve better than McConnell’s inadequate COVID-19 proposal

Bren Riley

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

America is suffering from an unprecedented pandemic and the economic collapse it has created. Nearly three months ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill. Right now, that bill is sitting untouched on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk as working people are suffering.

Senator McConnell’s told us to “pause” after the HEROES Act passed, proving he either did not understand how serious this pandemic is or did not care to. Regardless, the McConnell proposal is $2 trillion too short and 73 days too late.

Working people need real relief, not this piecemeal proposal.

For example, Senator McConnell insists he will block any further COVID-19 relief legislation unless it contains a provision that immunizes employers from liability if any working person contracts COVID-19—or God forbid dies from it. We know that now more than ever worker safety should be a top priority, but McConnell continues to put big businesses before people.

Unlike the HEROES Act, Senator Sen. McConnell’s proposal does not call for an OSHA emergency temporary standard. Last week, AL.com reported that out of the 272 state OSHA complaints related to COVID-19 workplace safety, the federal agency conducted just seven on-site inspections. And six out of those seven inspections were the result of a workplace fatality. If Alabama’s experience with COVID-19 in the workplace has taught us anything, it’s that our working people need an enforceable standard now more than ever.

Like every state in the nation, Alabama is suffering from an unemployment crisis. An estimated 7.5 percent of Alabama workers are currently unemployed through no fault of their own. While the HEROES Act would extend federal unemployment benefits, McConnell’s proposal would cut the recently-expired $600 weekly unemployment insurance benefit to just $200. That represents a major drop in the living standards of thousands of families across our state. That money is a lifeline to pay for necessities, including rent, groceries, and prescriptions.

We can’t afford to let anyone fall through the cracks. And recovery down the road requires us to keep working people whole right now. That’s why Alabama’s labor movement has been taking part in a nationwide effort to call on Senator Jones and Senator Shelby to pass the HEROES Act. Across the country, union members and leaders made over 50,000 calls to members of Congress demanding action, and we’re not slowing down until we get a bill that benefits

Public Service Announcement

We all know Alabama is home to great football, incredible food and southern hospitality. But if we go by the number of new cases per million people, Alabama is also currently home to the fourth-worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. The percentage of positive tests is more than 21 percent and rising. We demand and deserve better. Alabama’s working people are acting heroically and resiliently to beat this pandemic, but we cannot do this alone—and the clock is ticking. The Senate needs to pass the HEROES Act to save lives and livelihoods.

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Comprehensive sex-ed for all can improve people’s health

Annerieke Smaak Daniel

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Last July, I spoke with Sky H., a 20-yearold who identifies as non-binary and grew up in a very conservative rural town in the Black Belt region of Alabama. In school, Sky received abstinence-only education. Sky told me there was little instruction about sexual and reproductive health besides the basics of reproduction.

After years of pain, Sky was diagnosed at age 18 with endometriosis, a painful disorder that can lead to fertility complications. The condition might have been diagnosed much earlier if they had learned more about their own bodies and reproductive health in school, Sky believed.

Unfortunately, Sky’s experience isn’t unique. Over the past year and a half, I’ve spoken to more than 40 young people from 16 counties throughout Alabama who also didn’t learn about their sexual and reproductive health in school. Like Sky, they missed out on critical information and described the negative impact this had on the choices they made and their health as they grew older.

Schools in Alabama are not required to teach about sexual health but if they do, the State Code mandates a focus on abstinence. The State Code also contains stigmatizing language around same-sex activity and prohibits schools from teaching about sexual health in ways that affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. This makes it even harder for young people like Sky to get information.

But Alabama is not alone. Sixteen other states in the U.S. also do not mandate sex education in schools. And at least five others have laws stigmatizing samesex activity.

Comprehensive sexuality education can improve health outcomes for young people. It can help them learn about their bodies and how to recognize abnormal gynecological symptoms, steps they can take to prevent and treat sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other dangers to their health, and where they can go for reproductive health services.

Sex ed can also educate young people about the human papillomavirus (HPV) — the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. — and how to lower their risk of HPV-related cancers through the HPV vaccine.

Public Service Announcement

This information can improve young peoples health and save lives. Yet so few young people in schools throughout Alabama and the U.S. receive it. Instead, like Sky and other Alabama students, many young people receive abstinence-focused education.

These programs withhold critical, science-based information young people need to make safer decisions on their sexual health. They also shame adolescents about their sexuality, often leaving young people uncertain about who they can talk to or where they can go for accurate information about sexual behavior and health.

The problem is both a lack of political will and of adequate funding. Discriminatory property taxes and an inequitable education system leave many school districts in rural and less wealthy regions of Alabama without adequate funding. This means that programs considered optional, like sex ed, often aren’t offered.

ADVERTISEMENT

Alabama, a state with high rates of sexually transmitted infections and cancers related to HPV needs to do more to address historic inequalities and state neglect that have left Black people at a higher risk of poor health outcomes. Mandating comprehensive sexuality education for all of the states schools — and allocating state funding for these programs — would be an important step forward.

Students in underfunded and neglected school districts many of whom are Black and living in poverty — often lose out on access to critical and lifesaving information. It keeps them from being able to make informed and safe decisions and can harm their health. This unequal access to information can create lifelong disadvantages and may contribute to racial disparities in health as young people age into adulthood.

The Black Belt region of Alabama, where Sky is from, has high rates of poverty and poor health outcomes. The Black Belt region also has high rates of sexually transmitted infections and the highest rates of HIV in the state. Yet schools in this rural and marginalized region of the state are persistently underfunded.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought glaring attention to systemic inequalities and racial disparities in health, including in Alabama, where Black people are significantly more likely to die from the virus than white people. Within the United States, we continue to see the disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on Black people, who are more likely to live in poverty, lack access to health insurance, and suffer from chronic health conditions that put them at a higher risk of adverse health outcomes from the virus.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of ensuring that everyone has the information, tools, and resources they need to make informed decisions to protect their health. Schools in Alabama — and across the country — should help do that for all young people.

The pandemic is also showing us what happens when discrimination and neglect leave certain people out.

 

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | The “United” States of America. Really?

Larry Lee

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

We’ve all had it pounded in our heads virtually from birth that we live in a united country of 50 different states. Truth is, few things could be farther from the truth. If it were, we would all be pulling in the same direction at the same time, striving for common goals. This has seldom been the case. Even the original 13 colonies had great differences and some were much more interested in pulling away from England than others.

The reason for much of this is pointed out to us in American Nations by Colin Woodard as he paints graphic pictures of the 11 nations that actually comprise the U.S .and how they were settled at different times by different people from different backgrounds.

Certainly, there is no greater indicator of our lack of unity than the current highly fractured and divided response to COVID-19.  Unfortunately, there is no coordinated, 50-state effort to get this pandemic under control. Instead, our national leaders have sent one mixed message after another and left states to individually flop and flounder.

The result?

One thousand deaths a day across this land.

Imagine we were presently losing 1,000 people a day in some foreign war. That each day we were shipping 1,000 caskets back to this country from some distant land.

Would we be as tolerant of ineptitude in such a crisis as we are right now?

Public Service Announcement

Vanity Fair has just reported on how the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, inserted himself into the war against COVID-19. It is not a pretty picture. Nor a useful one.

Back in March Kushner set out to solve the on-going disaster of lack of diagnostic testing. So he brought together a group of largely bankers and billionaires — not public health experts. In spite of their lack of knowledge and willingness to work with others, the group developed a fairly comprehensive plan, that got good reviews from health professionals who saw it. But then the plan, according to someone involved with it, “just went poof into thin air.”

What happened? Politics.

ADVERTISEMENT

According to Vanity Fair, “Most troubling ….was a sentiment ….a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically.  The political folks believed that because it (the virus) was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy.”

“United” States of America? Don’t kid yourself.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement