Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced last week that Alabama reached a new record low unemployment rate in October.
Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted October unemployment rate is just 2.8 percent, down from September’s rate of 3.0 percent, and well below October 2018’s rate of 3.8 percent.
“More than 80,000 Alabamians are working today than last year, and 20,000 fewer people are counted as unemployed. Our economy is supporting over 2.1 million jobs, more than ever before,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “Those are tremendous numbers, and we are extremely proud of them. We continue to show the rest of the country that Alabama is indeed open for business! Employers have confidence in our economy and jobseekers who are joining the workforce are finding employment. Just yesterday, we celebrated Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama’s expansion which will add 200 new employees. This adds to the steady announcements we are making every month, and we will continue working hard to bring those jobs home, so that every Alabamian who wants a job, will have one!”
“Alabama has never experienced an unemployment rate in the two percent range,” said Secretary Washington. “While we have been breaking unemployment records all year, I have to say that this is one metric we really weren’t sure we’d ever surpass, but we have!”
Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Our state is open for business. Alabamians work hard and want to work, and when folks are employed, everyone’s quality of life benefits.”
October’s rate represents 2,200,681 employed persons, a new record high, compared to 2,194,109 in September and 2,120,546 in October 2018. This amounts to an over-the-year increase of 80,135. A new record low of 63,333 unemployed persons were counted, compared to 66,883 in September and 83,400 in October 2018, amounting to an over-the-year decrease of 20,067.
The number of people in the civilian labor force increased to 2,264,014, also a new record high, representing an over-the-year increase of 60,068.
“For the ninth month in a row, Alabama has met or surpassed national job growth,” continued Secretary Washington. “In October, manufacturing employment is at its highest level in more than a decade and record high employment was recorded in the professional and business services sector.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said, “Alabama is open for business! Awesome news for our state setting a record low unemployment rate.”
Wage and salary employment in the Ivey-Trump economy has soared to 2,101,800 in October, a new record high, representing over-the-year job growth of 2.0 percent, compared to the nation’s over-the-year job of growth of 1.4 percent. Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 41,900, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+13,300), the leisure and hospitality sector (+9,100), and the government sector (+4,000), among others.
Wage and salary employment increased in October by 7,900. Monthly gains were seen in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+3,100), the professional and business services sector (+3,000), and the government sector (+2,600), among others.
Manufacturing employment measured 271,600, which is its highest level since November 2008, when it measured 273,600. Professional and business services employment measured 259,700, a record high.
“Additionally, wages continue to show improvement, with total private average weekly earnings rising by $26.49 over the year, and construction wages reached a new record high,” said Secretary Washington.
“Secretary Fitzgerald Washington and the Alabama Department of Labor continue to work diligently with businesses and educational institutions to ensure Alabama has a quality and skilled workforce,” Dr. Nicole Jones added. “Governor Ivey, ADOL, AIDT, and most importantly, the companies that create the jobs, communicate effectively to promote opportunities and facilitate training of the skills needed to attain specific career paths.”
Wages are also rising. The total private average weekly earnings were $862.75 in October, up from $836.26 a year ago, a 3.2 percent across the board increase. Average weekly wages in the construction industry have soared to a new record high of $1,060.01 a week.
The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 1.8 percent, Marshall County at 2.0 percent, and Blount, Crenshaw, Cullman, Lee, Limestone, Madison, Morgan, and Tuscaloosa Counties at 2.1 percent. The counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 6.3 percent, Greene County at 4.8 percent, and Clarke County at 4.7 percent.
The major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 1.5 percent, Alabaster, Homewood, and Northport at 1.6 percent, and Hoover and Madison at 1.8 percent. The major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 5.2 percent, Prichard at 5.1 percent, and Bessemer at 3.7 percent.
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.