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August Alabama employment breaks record for fourth consecutive month

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced that more than 2.1 million people were working in Alabama in August, breaking the previous employment record for the fourth consecutive month.

“For four months in a row now, we’ve been breaking employment records,” Washington said. “Thirty-two thousand more Alabamians are working now than last year. We’ve also seen our labor force grow by 37,000, meaning more people have confidence in the economy and their ability to find a job – and the majority of those have found work, which is great news.”

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) took to Twitter to make the announcement.

“For the 4th consecutive month, Alabama has broken the record for having the MOST employed people EVER!” Gov. Ivey said on social media. “That’s further proof that #WeHaveJobs & more Alabamians are able to provide for their families! Our @al_labor deserves to be commended for their role in this outstanding news.”

2,112,274 Alabamians were counted as employed in August 2018, which is up from 2,105,577 in July, and up 32,101 from August 2017’s count of 2,080,173.

The civilian labor force, which is composed of people who are working or looking for work, increased over the year by 36,929, up to 2,203,485, compared to August 2017’s count of 2,166,556.

“Our jobs count continues to remain well above two million,” Washington added. “The sectors that are experiencing the most yearly growth are sectors with traditionally high wages, like professional and business services, manufacturing, and construction. In fact, professional and business services employment, which includes high paying occupations like Operations Managers, Software Developers, and more, is at a record high.”

Professional and Business Services employment currently measures 252,100, the highest level ever experienced.

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Average hourly wages for selected occupations in this sector include: General and Operations Managers at $59.46/hr., Software Developers, Applications at $45.36/hr., and Database Administrators at $40.64/hr. Wages for other occupations can be found online at: www.labor.alabama.gov/lmi by using the “Alabama Wage Lookup” tool.

Over the year, wage and salary employment has increased by 23,300 jobs. The biggest gains are in the professional and business services sector which has gained 9,500 jobs over the last year. This has been followed by the manufacturing sector with 8,200 jobs, and the construction sector is up 2,300 jobs.

Wage and salary employment increased in the August by 9,600.

Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted August unemployment rate is 4.1 percent, unchanged from July’s rate, and slightly above August 2017’s rate of 4.0%. August’s rate represents 91,211 unemployed persons, compared to 90,928 in July and 86,383 in August 2017.

Unemployment hit a record low of 3.7 percent in January.

In August, 64 of 67 counties saw their unemployment rates decrease or remain unchanged. 25 of the 26 major cities, and all metros saw either a decrease or no change in their rates from July to August.

The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 3.1 percent, Cullman County at 3.4 percent, and Marshall County at 3.5 percent. The counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 10.0 percent, Clarke County at 8.1 percent, and Lowndes County at 7.9 percent.

The major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 2.8 percent, Homewood, Hoover, and Alabaster at 3.0 percent, and Madison at 3.2 percent. The ajor cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 8.2 percent, Prichard at 7.3 percent, and Bessemer at 5.5 percent.

Republican are seizing on the booming economy as a reason to elect Republicans.

“This week, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released its Small Business Optimism Index from the month of August, and it showed a new record high in the survey’s 45-year history,”

Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) said. “It has become increasingly clear that Americans are working and prospering, and small businesses are thriving. Thanks to our conservative, pro-growth policies, our economy is booming. I will keep fighting for hardworking Alabamians and our job creators in AL-02 who contribute so much to our local economy. I look forward to seeing this exciting momentum continue!”

Gov. Kay Ivey is seeking her own term as Governor. She faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) in the November 6 general election.

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Health

Third patient at state’s Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center dies from COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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A third patient at the state’s Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatric Center has died from COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Mental Health confirmed to APR on Tuesday. 

There remained 16 active coronavirus cases among patients at the state-run facility, said ADMH spokeswoman Malissa Valdes-Hubert in a message Tuesday.

Those patients are in various states of recovery, she said. 

Valdes-Hubert also confirmed that the members of the Alabama National Guard are to clean the facility on Thursday. 

Under the direction of Gov. Kay Ivey, the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, members of the Alabama National Guard have since early April decontaminated and sanitized state nursing homes. Guard members also cleaned the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home, which had a serious outbreak of coronavirus, killing more than 20 residents and infecting more than 100. 

Valdes-Hubert said the department is in the process of planning for recovering patients and will release more information when available. 

There were no confirmed cases at ADMH’s two other facilities in Tuscaloosa, Bryce Hospital and the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility as of Tuesday, Valdes-Hubert said.

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Sewell implores Alabamians “to speak out and demand change without violence”

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama U.S. Rep.Terri Sewell said that her heart aches for George Floyd and that anger should be directed not to violence but to action.

“The heroes of the Civil Rights Movement showed us it is possible to change history without damaging property and torching businesses that our community members depend on, so I implore all Alabamians to speak out and demand change without violence,” Sewell said. “We cannot let violence distract from the legitimate anger and frustration that we must channel toward action. I pray for both peace and justice.”

Sewell posted a video message Monday in response to protests across the country, which have at some points, turned violent and chaotic. On Sunday, several reporters were attacked in Birmingham, and some businesses were vandalized.

The representative’s video message comes after Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed also called peaceful demonstration. Birmingham implemented a curfew in response to the riotous demonstrations Sunday evening, but the city also removed a Confederate monument from Linn Park.

“To all those who feel marginalized because of the color of your skin: I see you and I hear you,” Sewell said. “Your pain and hopelessness is legitimate — since the founding of our nation, our criminal justice system has failed our black and brown communities. My heart aches for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and the countless others whose senseless deaths have not made the national news cycle.”

Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District and is the only black member of Alabama’s congressional delegation.

“As a daughter of Selma, I myself have struggled to reconcile with the moment in which we continue to find ourselves, over and over,” Sewell said in the video statement. “The Foot Soldiers who came before us fought to create a better future, but every day we are reminded that that fight is far from over. They sacrificed their lives in pursuit of an America that lives up to its ideals – an America that we have not yet reached more than 55 years later.”

Sewell said the racism that causes pain can be seen plainly in police brutality and in the staggering health disparities black communities have endured before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“It can be seen in thinly-veiled attempts to put African Americans in our place, holding on to and idolizing a time when our bodies were not our own,” she said. “And it can be seen in the state-sanctioned holidays and monuments that honor the leaders of the Confederacy, including today, ‘Jefferson Davis Day.’”

Sewell said she also knows that the vast majority of Americans across the country and in Birmingham are peacefully protesting for social justice.

“I wish I had all the answers and I could give us all the solutions we need,” Sewell concluded. “For now, I promise that I will work tirelessly to do absolutely everything within my power to bring peace and justice to our communities.”

“My Administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served,” President Donald Trump said on Monday. “He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries of peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob.”

Floyd was killed while being arrested by the Minneapolis Police Department on suspicion of counterfeiting. The police officer who killed Floyd has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Activists say more widespread reform of policing and the criminal justice system needs to happen, and the other officers involved in Floyd’s homicide should also be charged.

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ACLU of Alabama backs right to protest

Eddie Burkhalter

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The ACLU of Alabama in a statement Tuesday expressed support for the Constitutionally protected right to protest and called for an end to racist policing. 

“We support protesters in Alabama and across the nation who are expressing their grief at the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all of the many Black men, women, and children who have been killed at the hands of police,” the statement reads. “We stand with those who are demanding justice from a system that has both historically abused and too often abuses Black communities to this day. Black people should not live in fear of being shot and killed by the police.

The ACLU said these times of unrest compel us to examine what will make our communities safer and more equitable.

“Police, sheriffs, and other government officials have discretion in how they use their time and resources,” the organization said in their statement. “Now is the time to question how they use that discretion around the role that law enforcement possesses in our communities, especially given the disproportionate harm inflicted upon communities of color, particularly Black communities, caused by enhanced militarization of law enforcement in this country. We cannot effectively address police violence without completely reimagining the role of police.  We must significantly reduce the responsibilities and presence of police in the everyday lives of people in heavily policed communities. We will not rest until there is an end to racist policing.”

“The ACLU’s commitment to ending racist and violent policing goes back decades, from confronting the police violence that fueled protests in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Newark in the 1960s, through Ferguson. Sadly, those efforts  have not worked. We must do more.

“Rather than spend taxpayer dollars on enforcing restrictions on the constitutionally protected right to protests, police and government officials should focus on seeking justice and holding themselves accountable to the people they are supposed to protect and serve.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Monday declared a state of emergency and enacted a city-wide curfew after a peaceful protest Sunday turned violent early Monday morning. 

Protests across Alabama on Monday were peaceful, with few arrests reported, according to news accounts.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | The people have always been more important than the monuments

Josh Moon

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Two participation trophies fell in Alabama on Monday night. 

No tears were shed. 

On the same day that the state “celebrated” Confederate Memorial Day — which is somehow still a state holiday some 150 years after the traitorous South surrendered in its quest to make legal the ownership of other human beings — a large monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park went away piece by piece and a metal statue of Robert E. Lee was toppled and hauled away from its spot outside of a Montgomery high school. 

This is progress, I guess. At least those eyesores are gone (for now, in the case of the Lee statue), even if the attitudes that kept them in place remain. 

It is no secret by now that I have never understood the fervor with which so many people in this state cling so tightly to reminders of defeated traitors who fought to enslave black people. 

I mean, I understand why racists cling to them. I don’t understand how those who claim to “not have a racist bone in my body” also cling to them. I don’t understand our state lawmakers creating laws to protect them. 

Monuments are meant to honor the people depicted in them. You don’t see us creating monuments of the 9/11 hijackers at the former World Trade Center site, do you? 

You know why? Because while that day was historic and we’ll want to remember those who died forever, we don’t honor those who caused that devastation. 

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But then, I don’t actually think anyone is confused by this. The cries of “protecting history” or “not erasing history” are nothing more than phony excuses meant to mask the true intent of cowards too ashamed or too scared to say what they really mean. 

And what they really mean is that they still cling to this notion of white supremacy. They’re just too scared of the societal backlash to put on a white hood and attend the meetings. 

These people see the removal of the Confederate monuments as a loss — a personal loss. Because that tie to the confederacy and the sad, pathetic belief that they were somehow superior because of the color of their skin has sustained them throughout their lives. 

That’s why they cling so tightly to these relics of the past — because those relics represent their “heritage” and their worth. 

It doesn’t matter at all that poor whites and poor blacks have so much more in common in 2020 than poor whites and rich whites. If the two groups ever bonded, ever formed a mutually beneficial coalition, they could — by the power of their numbers — change America overnight to a more just, more equitable country. 

But they won’t, because poor white people would lose their ability to look down on someone. And really, what good is life if you can’t make certain that someone out there has it worse than you? 

And so, here we are, more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War and more than 60 years since Dr. King crossed the bridge in Selma, still fighting battles over race and discrimination and hatred and intolerance. 

Maybe the protests of George Floyd’s killing will finally be the straw to break this thing. Maybe the days of everything being on fire, along with those awful images of Floyd, will instill in the minds of enough people that there really are problems.

Maybe we can finally stop holding onto these relics of the past and concern ourselves more with holding onto each other. 

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