Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) praised the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics January jobs report on Friday.
“On the plus side, the economy produced 304,000 new jobs in January and 2.2 million new jobs over the past year,” Brooks said in a statement. “Both are excellent numbers. Similarly, the monthly labor participation rate improved from 63.1 percent to 63.2 percent, with a very good .5 percentage point annual improvement. Notably, January marks an all-time record 100th straight month of job growth. This record streak began in October 2010 and is more than twice as long as the second best 48-month streak that ended in June 1990.”
“On the troubling side, America’s unemployment rate increased for the second month in a row, from 3.9 percent to 4 percent,” Brooks said. “November’s unemployment rate was a much better 3.7 percent. The apparent conflict in strong job creation with improving labor participation rate data but with a worsening unemployment rate is likely attributable to more Americans entering the work force and seeking jobs coupled with a continued surge in illegal aliens taking jobs from American families.”
“Thankfully, wage growth, albeit relatively weak, continued in January,” Brooks continued. “Average hourly non-farm worker wages rose by three cents, to $27.56 per hour, seven cents less than December’s strong 10-cent hourly improvement but still a healthy 85 cents an hour better than a year ago.”
Brooks warned against dramatic economic policy changes.
“So far, Democrat’s threatened 70 percent tax rates, massively unaffordable ‘Medicare-for-All’ Socialized healthcare system, and the job-killing ‘Green New Deal’ have not significantly damaged America’s economy because the Republican Senate and White House are bulwarks preventing their passage, but employers and job creators are surely watching to see what radical job killing Socialist policies House Socialist Democrats and Socialist Democrat presidential candidates propose in the coming months,” Brooks said. “The open question is whether America’s education system has enabled the voting public to understand how bad Socialism is and how free enterprise has been instrumental in making America the greatest and most prosperous nation in world history.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics America’s economy added 304,000 new, non-farm payroll jobs in January 2019. The labor participation rate climbed to 63.2 percent. America’s January unemployment rate is at 4.0 percent. The White House attributed the slight uptick in the inflation rate to the hundreds of thousands of government workers affected by the partial government shutdown. Over the past year, the average weekly earnings for all non-farm American workers increased by 85 cents (to $27.56/hour).
The White House was jubilant with the information that the economy gained 304,000 jobs, despite the partial government shutdown and the end of the Christmas shopping season, surpassing expectations.
“We added 304,000 jobs, which was a shocker to a lot of people,” said President Donald J. Trump. “It wasn’t a shocker to me.”
America’s economy continues its streak of job gains. January 2019 marks the 16th month in a row with employment growth of at least 100,000 new jobs.
Numerous sectors experienced job growth in January, including mining and logging (7,000 jobs), transportation and warehousing (27,000), construction (52,000), education and health services (55,000) and leisure and hospitality (74,000).
The U.S. economy has added 4.9 million jobs since January 2017 and 5.3 million jobs since Trump was elected in November 2016.
The employment cost index, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases quarterly, showed a 3.1 percent gain in the wages and salaries component in the fourth quarter of 2018. That’s up from 2.9 percent in the third quarter and tied for the biggest gain since the third quarter of 2008, right before the onset of the Great Recession.
Overall, the employment cost index, which also includes benefits costs, rose 2.9 percent for the quarter, which also tied the highest level since the third quarter of 2008.
The Federal Reserve Board voted not to raise interest rates in January. A statement released Wednesday after this week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting indicated that “market-based measures of inflation compensation have moved lower in recent months” though “survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed.”
A household survey released by BLS shows that the labor force participation rate for prime-age adults, ages 25-54, increased by 0.3 percentage points to 82.6 percent. The last time it was this high was April 2010.
The stock market boomed in January after a volatile fourth quarter that saw stocks slide following all-time highs in September.
The S&P 500 index lost 9.6 percent of its value in December, the worst December performance since 1931. The S&P 500 climbed back in January gaining 7.9 percent despite the partial government shutdown. This was the best January for the index since 1987. The S&P 500 has gained 15 percent since Dec. 26. The Dow Jones showed similar gains, closing January a fraction of a point below 25,000 after closing December at 23,327.
Brooks is serving his fifth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.
Original reporting by CNBC and the Wallstreet Journal contributed to this report.
New unemployment claims held steady in June, state says
The number of Alabamians filing for unemployment insurance held more or less steady over the course of June, with 18,340 new claims added during the last week of the month, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
There were 19,950 new claims in the first week of June and 18,367 in the second week, then a slight jump to 18,671 in the third week.
The month’s total of 75,328 new claims comes after Gov. Kay Ivey relaxed some restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 and allowed more businesses to open. The numbers vary by industry and county, but generally represent some stabilization, according to department spokesperson Tara Hutchison.
“They remain significantly down from a high in excess of 100,000 in April, which is good news. I don’t know if we can really expect anything one way or another in this unprecedented situation, but the decline from early in the pandemic is of course welcome news,” Hutchison said.
About 60 percent of last week’s new claims were attributed to COVID-19.
The state’s unemployment rate dropped from 13.8 percent in April to 9.9 percent in May. That compares to a rate of 3 percent in May 2019.
Jefferson County had the highest share of new claims last week at 2,626, followed by Mobile and Montgomery counties at 1,900 and 1,400, respectively.
The worst-hit industries that are categorized were administrative and support services, food service and bars, transportation equipment manufacturing, general merchandise stores, nursing and residential care facilities and educational services.
As of May, counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Clay County at 5.6 percent, Geneva County at 6.3 percent and Shelby County at 6.5 percent.
Counties with the highest unemployment rates are Wilcox County at 19.3 percent, Lowndes County at 18.3 percent and Greene County at 16.4 percent.
Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are Vestavia Hills at 5.2 percent, Homewood at 5.4 percent and Madison at 6.2 percent.
Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are Prichard at 18.6 percent, Selma at 17.1 percent and Gadsden at 15.7 percent.
Wage and salary employment increased in May by 42,500, according to the department.
Average weekly earnings increased to a record high in May, rising to $905.25 per week, representing an increase of $66.43 over the year.
Secretaries of State share joint statement on importance of USMCA launch
Following the completion of the necessary measures to comply with commitments under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Agreement officially enters into force today, July 1, 2020.
As Secretaries of State who oversee the business filings process in the respective states of Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas, and Wyoming, Secretaries John H. Merrill (Alabama), Paul D. Pate (Iowa), Michael G. Adams (Kentucky), Kyle Ardoin (Louisiana), Michael Watson (Mississippi), John R. Ashcroft (Missouri), Bob Evnen (Nebraska), Frank LaRose (Ohio), Ruth Hughs (Texas), and Edward A. Buchanan (Wyoming) recognize and appreciate firsthand the positive impact the USMCA will have on entrepreneurs across the country.
“Alabama’s international engagement fuels job growth and increases exports. The success of Alabama businesses depends on the participation and competitiveness of our global counterparts. Alabama totaled $6.6 billion in exports to Canada and Mexico in 2018, supporting families and businesses across the state” noted Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill. “I was delighted to join President Donald J. Trump in January of this year as he signed this mutually beneficial agreement, and I look forward to its future success.”
“The USMCA is a great opportunity for Iowa’s farmers, businesses and families. The launch of this agreement comes at a vital time for our country and will provide a much needed boost to our economy. Canada and Mexico bought $6.5 billion worth of goods from Iowa in 2018 and this deal ensures our partnerships with these neighbors will continue,” stated Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.
“The USMCA entering into force is a great deal and a win for American and Louisiana workers. The USMCA will help support and grow our economy, boost small businesses, help our farmers, manufacturers, and workers, and ensure more Louisiana-made products can be sent internationally. Trade is important to Louisiana’s economy and this deal will help boost both,” stated Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin.
“During a time when the future of our economy seems nebulous, the USCMA creates a portal for modern opportunities and prosperous partnerships,” said Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson. “The enhanced agreement will undoubtedly revive businesses and help boost innovation in our state. I applaud President Trump’s leadership and dedication to ensuring a fair playing field for Mississippi farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs.”
“Missouri is grateful for this historic agreement, which will help Missouri agriculture and businesses grow with more jobs and increasing exports. As our economy recovers, getting businesses and people back to work, this will help ensure success for large and small businesses who compete and form partnerships with our neighbors. We stand ready to assist our entrepreneurs and businesses,” replied Missouri Secretary of State John R. Ashcroft.
Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen noted, “The USMCA provides expanded opportunities for Nebraska’s livestock industry, and our ag commodity and specialty crop producers. The USMCA builds on the successes and corrects the problems of NAFTA, and gives us expanded opportunities for Nebraska’s ag trade with our friends in Mexico and Canada. This excellent agreement now serves as a template for other international free trade agreements, so we have cause for optimism on many fronts.”
“Today is a day Ohio’s farmers and entrepreneurs have been waiting for,” said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. “As our nation’s economy continues to recover, the USMCA is a much needed boost as they compete on the global stage. Thanks to the leadership of President Trump, Senator Portman and bipartisan leaders from across our nation, Ohio is poised for our next giant leap, and my office looks forward to helping make it happen.”
“Last year alone, trade between Texas and its two largest trade partners—Mexico and Canada—totaled more than $200 billion. This exchange supports the more than 950,000 Texas jobs that are tied directly to trade with Mexico and Canada,” said Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs. “The implementation of the USMCA provides tremendous benefit to all parties involved in the trade deal and will help to ensure years of mutual economic benefit and prosperity for all. We look forward to further strengthening our relationship with our trade partners as we enter a new era of innovation and success.”
“The USMCA trade deal has high standards and rebalances North American trade to provide a stronger market for Wyoming’s and our Nation’s goods. This is a great day for our country, as businesses will better be able to participate in cross-border trade. USMCA ensures fair business practices by our neighbors and now the advantage will be back in the hands of the American worker,” stated Wyoming Secretary of State Edward Buchanan.
This historic trade agreement will result in freer markets, fairer trade, and strong economic growth across North America, creating new opportunities for American workers, farmers, ranchers, and business owners.
Ivey announces SiO2’s $163 million expansion in Auburn
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday that SiO2 Materials Science plans to invest $163 million in an expansion at its Auburn facility.
The announcement came just after securing a major contract to supply the federal government with vials to support the COVID-19 vaccine effort if and when an effective vaccine is developed. The project will create 220 jobs.
“It is exciting to know that SiO2 will be directly involved in providing a product essential to addressing the COVID-19 crisis, which will impact not only Alabamians but the entire country,” Ivey said. “This is a testament to the ingenuity of this great company and its growing Alabama workforce.”
Economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Vials produced by SiO2 Materials Science may be the critical component needed to ensure safety in the vaccine distribution process. The breakthrough technology developed by the Auburn-based company provides a glimmer of hope amidst challenging times and showcases how Alabamians are working diligently to craft solutions that will assist our nation and the world in the fight against COVID-19. In addition, the 220 new, high-skilled jobs housed in Auburn Technology Park West will bring economic benefits to Lee County as well as the entire state of Alabama.”
The expansion will allow SiO2 to increase its production capacity so that it can meet the expected demand for vials and syringes when a coronavirus vaccine is finally approved for mass use.
In June, SiO2 announced an $143 million contract with federal government agencies for a production scale-up of the company’s state-of-the-art packaging platform for storing novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines and therapeutics.
Bobby Abrams is the CEO of SiO2.
“The pandemic presents an enormous challenge for all people,” Abrams said. “We are extremely grateful for Senator Shelby’s steadfast support and assistance, and we’re honored to collaborate with our government so a COVID-19 vaccine can be safely and quickly distributed. The State of Alabama and the City of Auburn for many years have been very supportive of SiO2 Materials Science during its research, development, commercialization, and now scale-up phases of the company.”
Over the last 10 years, SiO2 has developed its patented vial platform, which combines a plastic container with a microscopic, pure glass coating on the inside that is ideal for biological drugs and vaccines. The product, developed in Auburn with help from experts from four major U.S. research institutions, combines the benefits of both glass and plastic without drawbacks.
“There are problems with plastic, and there are problems with glass, and we resolve all of them,” Abrams said.
SiO2 will expand its existing facility at 2250 Riley Street and will invest in a new molding facility at 2425 Innovation Drive, both located in the Auburn Technology Park West.
Construction is already under way to expand the facility on Innovation Drive. The completed approximately 70,000-square-foot facility will increase the production capacity of SiO2’s injection molding operation.
“We’re proud to have some of the world’s leading scientists and product developers working in our community,” Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said. “With the presence of these companies and Auburn University’s outstanding medical and engineering programs, we believe we’ll see significant growth in the biotech industry right here in Auburn. On top of that, the well-paying jobs created through this project will result in significant economic opportunities for our local businesses.”
Greg Canfield, the secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said that SiO2’s expansion project in Auburn will help ensure that the nation’s health authorities have an ample supply of vials and syringes to administer a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as it is developed.
“Having a steady supply of SiO2’s innovative vials will represent a key strategic advantage for federal agencies wanting to act rapidly once a vaccine is available to counter the coronavirus,” Canfield said.
Robert S. Langer is a professor at the David H. Koch Institute at MIT and a company adviser.
A key element of SiO2’s product is enhanced safety for healthcare providers and for patients, who are at a lower risk of adverse side effects. A combination of plastic and a microscopic layer of glass also means vials and syringes won’t break, shatter or crack. SiO2 ships its products worldwide.
“Many drug development and drug formulation innovations can be limited due to variables associated with traditional glass vials and syringes,” Langer said. “The SiO2 vials and syringes eliminate these variables and allow drug development partners to bring their innovations to life.”
SiO2 is a privately-owned company based in Auburn, where it has around 200 employees. The Retirement Systems of Alabama provided early financial support for the company.
517,464 people have already died from the COVID-19 global pandemic, including 130,602 Americans.
ADOL announces extended benefits program to begin
The Alabama Department of Labor announced today that the state will begin offering Extended Benefits (EB) for those who qualify and have exhausted previous benefits.
This is a separate program from the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program that was enacted under the CARES Act.
The EB program is a federal program that is triggered when a state’s insured unemployment rate exceeds 5.9 percent. Alabama’s weekly insured unemployment rate* of 6.11 percent triggered the state onto a 13-week EB period beginning the week of May 31. It is usually available during times of adverse economic conditions. The last time Alabama offered the EB program was during the Great Recession of 2008.
While EB is available for UP TO 13 weeks, not all claimants will be eligible to receive all weeks. Alabamians can begin claiming these benefits on July 5, 2020.
Claimants must first exhaust all regular UC and PEUC benefits before they will be eligible for EB benefits. Claimants must not be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits in another state or Canada, must have no disqualifications, have qualifying wages, and must have at least one week in the benefit year that begins in an EB eligibility period. Specific eligibility criteria can be found at: https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/UIPL/UIPL_24-20.pdf.
Individuals are only entitled to benefits if they are no longer working through no fault of their own and they MUST be able and available for work. The EB program has more stringent work search requirements and requires claimants to engage in a “systematic and sustained” effort to obtain work during each week and to provide evidence of efforts. Due to the pandemic, the submission of required work search contacts has been TEMPORARILY waived due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, claimants should continue to look for work where possible, and maintain a record of their efforts on a weekly basis. This waiver may end at any time. Once this waiver ends, claimants will be required to provide a minimum of three (3) work search contacts each week during the weekly certification process.
ADOL will notify those eligible for EB benefits via the UI Claims Tracker and by mail. Claimants will not have to apply for these benefits, but should continue to file weekly certifications.