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Economy

Stocks plummet in December

Brandon Moseley

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Christmas Eve saw stocks crater. This followed losses on most major indexes last week. With just a few business days left this year could be the worst December for stocks in history.

The Dow Jones Index hit a new 52 week low on Monday of 21,792.20. That is its lowest level since September 2017. The Dow has lost 11.84 percent of its value in 2018, the worst year since the start of the Great Recession in 2008 when the Dow dropped 33.84 percent. The Dow has lost 14.67 percent of its value in December.

The NASDAQ hit a new 52 week low on Monday of 6,190.17, its lowest level going back to August 2017. The NASDAQ has lost 15.52 percent of its value this December.

The S&P 500 hit a new 52-week low on Friday of 2,351.10, its lowest level back to April 2017. The S&P is down 14.82 percent and is on pace for its worst December ever going back to its inception in 1928. If this holds, then it will break the record worst December of 1931. This has been the worst month for the S&P since October 2008 when the S&P lost 16.94 percent. The S&P is down 14.53 percent over December and is down 12.06 percent in 2018. The S&P is on pace for its worst year since the Great Recession in 2008 when the S&P lost 38.49 percent. The S&P set its all-time high of 2,940.91 on September 21.

The Russell 2000 small caps index closed down 1.95 percent on Monday hitting a new 52 week low of 1,266.92. Small caps are down 17.37 percent in December on pace for their worst month since October 2008, when small caps lost 20.90 percent. The small caps are down 17.49 percent in and are on pace for their worst year since 2008 when small caps lost 34.8 percent.

All eleven stock market sectors closed down month to date. The worst sector is energy which is down 18.1 percent month to date. Even “safe” investments like REITS (real estate investment trusts) are down.

The stock market had boomed in 2016 and 2017. The market had struggled a bit in 2018 but surged in September and October, with most indexes setting all-time record highs. The record highs started some investors to cash in and take their profits so a sell-off began. The Federal Reserve has been fearful that the booming economy would lead to rising wages and prices and has been raising interest rates to make capital more expensive to borrow. It also makes it more expensive for the government to borrow thus grows the budget deficit. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration’s tariffs and trade policies have scared some investors. Chinese retaliation against American farm products has negatively impacted soybeans, corn, dairy, and pork prices.  On top of trade war fears, there are also concerns that the global economy is experiencing a slowdown. The dramatic drop in oil and fuel prices is seen by some analysts as an indicator that we may be in a slowdown and has hit energy stocks hard. In November Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 2010, perhaps indicating more strife in Washington and potentially even impeachment hearings as Robert Mueller appears to be close to indicting President Trump.

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On Wednesday, a downward trend became a flood when Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome “Jay” H. Powell (whom Trump appointed) announced that the Fed was raising interest rates again and planned to gradually raise interest rates throughout 2019. A massive sell-off has resulted. Trump’s battle with Senate Democrats over funding for his border wall resulted in a partial government shutdown at midnight on Friday, that still has no resolution in sight. Since they could not pass a budget yet again, a funding measure is needed to keep the government funded. Trump says that he will not sign that unless he gets $5 billion to build a wall on America’s border with Mexico. Senate Democrats say that they will never fund the construction of a wall. Investors tend to flee uncertainty.  Last week ended as the worst week for stocks since 2011.

President Donald J. Trump (R) has been highly critical of Chairman Powell’s performance reportedly saying of Powell, “He is trying to turn me into Hoover” (the President in the 1929 stock market crash that launched the Great Depression). Some mainstream media accounts claim that an angry Trump allegedly wanted to fire Powell, a move that is of debatable legality.

On Saturday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a pair of tweets that he’d spoken with the president about the matter and said that Trump said, “I never suggested firing Chairman Jay Powell, nor do I believe I have the right to do so.”

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The markets responded on Monday with a continued sell-off. Much of that money is going to bonds bringing the rates down.

The U.S. 2 year treasury note closed Monday yielding 2.5927 percent. The US 10 year note closed Monday yielding 2.7579 percent.

(Original reporting by the New York Times’ Binyamin Appelbaum, Fox News, Bloomberg News, and CNBC’s Gina Francolla contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

Alabama unemployment rate drops more than 2 points to 5.6 percent

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 5.6 percent in August, down from 7.9 percent in July, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. 

The figure represents 127,186 unemployed people, compared to 176,556 in July. It compares to an August 2019 rate of 2.8 percent, or 62,149 unemployed people.

“August showed a larger drop in the unemployment rate than we’ve seen for a few months,” said Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We are continuing to see our initial claims drop, staying under 10,000 for the past several weeks. We regained another 22,200 jobs this month but are still down more than 86,000 from this time last year.”

Washington said that the number of people who are working or actively looking for work is at its highest level ever, which he described as a sign that people are confident that there are jobs to be found. 

Gov. Kay Ivey said the numbers are good news for Alabama. 

“We have worked extremely hard to open Alabama’s businesses safely, and to put our hard-working families back to work,” Ivey said in a statement. “We know that challenges remain, and we will endeavor to meet them so that we can get back to our previous, pre-pandemic record-setting employment numbers.”

All the state’s counties and metro areas experienced a decrease in unemployment rates from July to August. The most gains were seen in the government sector, the professional and business services sector and the trade, transportation and utilities sector.

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Counties with the lowest unemployment rates were:

  • Clay County – 3.4 percent
  • Randolph, Franklin, Marshall, Cullman, Cleburne and Cherokee Counties – 3.6 percent
  • Blount County – 3.7 percent

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were:

  • Wilcox County – 14.8 percent
  • Lowndes County – 13.8 percent
  • Greene County – 10.9 percent

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are:

  • Vestavia Hills – 3 percent
  • Homewood  – 3.2 percent
  • Madison – 3.3 percent

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are:

  • Prichard – 15.4 percent
  • Selma – 12.9 percent
  • Bessemer – 10.7 percent

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Economy

New unemployment claims drop slightly

Micah Danney

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There were 8,848 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,902 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Of the claims filed between Sept. 6 and Sept. 12, 4,485, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.

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Economy

Inaugural Alabama Works innovator awards presented

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(VIA ALABAMA WORKS)

The inaugural AlabamaWorks! Innovator Awards were presented by Gov. Kay Ivey and Deputy Director of Commerce and AIDT Director Ed Castile Thursday during the AlabamaWorks! Virtual Conference.

The awards were developed to highlight people and programs across the state that take an innovative approach to solving workforce challenges and help advance Ivey’s Success Plus attainment goal of adding 500,000 highly skilled workers by 2025.

At the time of the inception of the awards, Alabama was unaware of the impact COVID-19 would have on the workforce and although the attainment goal has not changed, our economic and workforce recovery post-COVID-19 will hinge on innovators like those recognized.

“The workforce challenges that we face today are not the same ones that we faced six months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has completely reshaped the workforce landscape,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “The State of Alabama is relying on those who are leading the charge by implementing innovative solutions in their cities, counties and regions to further economic and workforce development.”

The recipients are visionaries, outside-of-the-box thinkers and problem solvers. The programs test boundaries, explore new opportunities and reach deeper to bring about change. “It is important to recognize these leaders of innovation and to thank them for their hard work and dedication to the citizens, communities and industries of Alabama,” said Ed Castile, deputy director of commerce and AIDT director. “Their innovative approach to workforce development will be key to opening doors, breaking barriers and propelling Alabamians forward.”

The recipients of the first-ever AlabamaWorks Innovator Awards are as follows:

Region 1 – North AlabamaWorks – Beth Brumley, Colbert County Schools

Beth Brumley built the Health Science Program for Colbert County Schools from the ground up by using her experience in the healthcare field to provide critical, real-world skills to her students. She developed key relationships within the healthcare community to provide her students enhanced learning opportunities and exposure, which resulted in increased demand for program graduates. Beth was also named the 2020 National New Teacher of the Year through the Association for Career and Technical Education. By bridging the gap between education and employer, Beth has created a formula for success that positively impacts the workforce.

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Region 2 – East AlabamaWorks – The Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement (SAFE)

SAFE has been a model for supportive services to empower individuals and families while fostering positive and healthy development of the community for nearly 25 years. In their program, SAFE combines occupational and employability skills to help job seekers be ready to enter the workforce regardless of barriers they may have faced in the past. Their dedication to providing practical solutions to modern problems is a testament to their heart for service and passion for helping their community and region.

Region 3 – West AlabamaWorks – Dr. Mike Daria, Superintendent Tuscaloosa City Schools

Dr. Daria has played a crucial role in the success of West Alabama’s workforce development by fostering important relationships between industry and education. His leadership has focused on increased Career Technical Education (CTE) enrollment, supporting local Worlds of Work events and the Educator Workforce Academy. Dr. Daria’s emphasis on the importance of identifying career pathways for the students in his district and then providing viable opportunities for students to take those paths, make him invaluable to West Alabama.

Region 4 – Central Six AlabamaWorks – Ed Farm

Ed Farm is the signature program of TechAlabama that focuses on encouraging children and adults to discover and pursue STEM careers. Ed Farm has a vision for a world full of invention, led by citizens who have been equipped with the necessary tools to fill or create the careers of the future. Through equipping educators and communities with innovative tools, strategies and programs they are able to support active learning for all students. With three signature tracks, Ed Farm is poised to help increase educational equity and improve learning outcomes through technology all while preparing the future tech workforce.

Region 5 – Central AlabamaWorks – Tiger Mochas, Auburn City Schools

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Tiger Mochas is a collaborative effort between special education students, FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) members and peer volunteers at Auburn High School. This student-led organization is serving up a lot more than hot cups of coffee to their peers because through their work, students are provided meaningful, hands-on work experience that teaches important functional, social and daily living skills. Graduates of the program leave with not only work and employability skills, but in-demand soft skills that will help them succeed in life and work.

Region 6 – Southeast AlabamaWorks – WeeCat Industries

WeeCat Industries uses a simulated workplace model to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce. WeeCat saw an opportunity to begin teaching work ethics and employability skills as early as preschool, and rose to the challenge. Their students clock into work, run an assembly line, fill orders, check invoices, meet production quota, interview for new positions and implement quality control all while earning a “paycheck” to be spent at the WeeCat Store before they can even spell the word “school”. WeeCat Industries places invaluable skills at a crucial age in development which will shape the future of the workforce.

Region 7 – SAWDC AlabamaWorks – Ed Bushaw

Ed Bushaw with the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce researched and developed initiatives to address the region’s workforce supply to meet the needs of the growing hospitality and tourism industry in his region. His collaborative efforts with business and industry officials resulted in the development of the first Hospitality and Tourism registered apprenticeship program in Alabama. Apprentices receive classroom instruction as well as valuable real-world experience within the hospitality and tourism industry and finish the program with a credential that can be used to advance their career. Ed’s ability to adapt to the needs of industry and implement programs that address those needs are vital to the continued success of southwest Alabama.

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Economy

Report: Transitioning to electric vehicles could save Alabama millions in health costs

Alabama would experience approximately 500 less asthma attacks per year, about 38 fewer premature deaths and prevent more than 2,200 lost workdays annually.

Micah Danney

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Alabama could save $431 million in public health costs per year by 2050, if the state shifted to an electric transportation sector between now and then, according to a new study by the American Lung Association.

Such a transition would reduce other health-related issues, said the organization, which used data on pollution from vehicles and from oil refineries to calculate its findings.

Alabama would experience approximately 500 less asthma attacks per year, about 38 fewer premature deaths and prevent more than 2,200 lost workdays annually.

The transportation sector is one of the main contributors to air pollution and climate change, said William Barrett, the association’s director of advocacy for clean air and the study’s author.

“We have the technology to transition to cleaner cars, trucks and buses, and by taking that step we can prepare Alabama for the future while also seeing the health and economic benefits forecasted in ‘The Road to Clean Air,’” Barrett said. “Especially as our state faces the impacts of climate change, such as extreme storms, this is a powerful and practical opportunity to take action to improve our economy, our health and our future.”

Trading combustion-powered vehicles for electric ones could result in $11.3 billion in avoided health costs across southern states by mid-century, the report estimated, and prevent roughly 1,000 premature deaths.

Nationally, Americans stand to save $72 billion in health costs and $113 billion in avoided climate change impacts, the ALA said.

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The path to that future depends on leaders factoring public health effects into decisions about transportation, Barrett said.

That involves steps like pursuing electric vehicle fleets when purchasing decisions are being made and supporting the creation of enough charging stations along highways, roads and at truck stops.

Investing in that infrastructure can drive wider economic benefits, Barrett said. He cited California’s increased manufacturing of electric vehicles.

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Tesla is the most well-known producer that has located there, but Barrett said that makers of trucks and buses have also chosen to locate their facilities in the state.

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