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Economy

Alabama hits record low unemployment rate of 2.7 percent

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced that, for the seventh month in a row, Alabama has reached a new record low unemployment rate. Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted November unemployment rate was a shockingly low 2.7 percent, down from October’s previous record rate of 2.8 percent, and well below November 2018’s rate of 3.8 percent.

“For seven months in a row now, we have announced record-breaking jobs numbers in Alabama,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R). “We are consistently seeing yearly drops that are the highest in the nation. Our jobs count continues to break records and beat expectations. More than 80,000 Alabamians are working today that weren’t last year. All this data combines to paint a picture of economic health in Alabama. We have one more month to report on for 2019, but it’s certainly shaping up to be a banner year!”

In November 2,203,495 Alabamians had a job. This is another new record high. Despite already being at full employment, according to classical economists, Alabama managed to add another 82,609 jobs since November 2018. Only 61,963 people were counted as unemployed. That is yet another new record low, and is down substantially from the 83,298 that were unemployed in November 2018. The civilian labor force also reached a new record high of 2,265,458, representing an over-the-year increase of 61,274 people.

“The number of jobs our economy is supporting is, yet again, at a record high,” Secretary Washington said. “We’ve seen a gain of more than 50,000 jobs since this time last year. Our job growth rate in November is the highest it’s been all year, and we’ve once again surpassed the national job growth rate.”

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “We are living in a red-letter time in history with continuous record low unemployment. Alabama is open for business, and companies are hiring.”

“Over 273,000 Alabamians are employed in manufacturing, the highest in eleven years,” Dr. Jones added. “Much of this economic resurgence can be credited to tax and workforce development policies initiated by the Trump Administration. The Pledge to America’s Workers, for example, includes commitments from businesses and trade groups to offer programs that educate, train, and reskill workers of all ages. Companies are bringing their plants back to the United States and willing to invest in their human capital again – and when the majority of folks are working, we all benefit.”

Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 50,400, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+14,900), the leisure and hospitality sector (+8,800), the government sector (+6,900), and the manufacturing sector (+4,900), among others.

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Wage and salary employment grew in November by 9,100. Monthly gains were seen in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+5,500), the government sector (+3,800), and the education and health services sector (+900), among others.

“Manufacturing employment in Alabama is at its highest level in 11 years,” Washington said. “Other sectors are currently experiencing their highest levels of employment in history. Employers are hiring, and people are finding work.”

Manufacturing employment has reached 273,700. 14,600 of those work in motor vehicle manufacturing, also a record high and a high that is expected to increase further when Mazda-Toyota opens their new plant in Limestone County. 1,736,700 Alabamians now work in the service sector. 261,000 of those provide professional and business services. 252,900 provide education and health services.

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Alabama’s job growth rate for November is 2.4 percent, the highest recorded in 2019. It surpasses the national job growth rate of 1.5 percent. This marks the tenth month that Alabama’s job growth rate has matched or exceeded the national rate.

Wages are also continuing to climb across the state. Average weekly earnings in November were $863.11, which is up $1.06 from October, and up $21.56 from November 2018.

The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 1.8 percent, Marshall County at 2.0 percent, and Limestone and Madison Counties at 2.1 percent. The counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 6.3 percent, Clarke County at 4.8 percent, and Greene and Lowndes Counties at 4.7 percent. 66 of Alabama’s 67 counties are at full employment, according to the classical definition of 5.0 percent or less.

The major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Homewood and Vestavia at 1.6 percent, Northport at 1.7 percent, and Alabaster, Hoover, and Madison at 1.8 percent. The major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 5.0 percent, Prichard at 4.8 percent, and Anniston and Bessemer at 3.6 percent. Even Alabama’s poorest major cities are now at full employment.

This Christmas, everyone who is capable of working, who wants a job can find a job with a little effort.

 

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Economy

Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan

Bill Britt

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A survey of likely Republican primary voters obtained by APR shows that a majority do not support giving the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the state despite the tribe’s promise of a billion dollars.

Over the last several months, PCI has orchestrated a massive media blitz to convince Alabamians that they have a winning plan for the state’s future in exchange for a Tribal-State compact and exclusive rights to Vegas-style casino gaming.

The survey commissioned by the Republican House and Senate caucuses and conducted by CYGNAL, a highly respected Republican polling firm, found that only 34.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters are buying what the tribe is selling. On the contrary, nearly 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan, with almost 40 percent voicing strong opposition.

Of those surveyed, females are against the plan by nearly 50 percent, with men weighing-in at almost 60 percent unfavorable to PCI’s proposal.

Perhaps most significant is that PCI’s monopoly plan was widely rejected in areas where the tribe already operates casinos. In the Mobile area, nearest Windcreek Atmore, over half of Republicans see a monopoly unfavorably. The same is true in the Montgomery area, where PCI has two gaming facilities.

Not a single big city surveyed in the state held a favorable view of PCI’s plan with Birmingham and Huntsville rejecting the tribal monopoly by almost 50 percent.

Very conservative, somewhat conservative and moderate voters didn’t view the plan as positive.

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Ninety-one percent of respondents said they defiantly would be voting in the upcoming Republican primary on March 3.

PCI has lavished money on media outlets throughout the state, garnering favorable coverage, especially on talk radio and internet outlets. The tribe has also spent freely on Republican lawmakers.

Perhaps some good news for PCI is that Republican primary voters believe that state legislators are more likely to represent special interests above the interests of their constituents.

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PCI lobbyists continue to push the tribe’s agenda at the State House in defiance of Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for no action on gaming until her study group returns its findings.

The survey found that Ivey enjoys a 76.3 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters.

 

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ADECA names Elaine J. Fincannon as new deputy director

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Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell announced on Thursday that Elaine J. Fincannon has been appointed as the agency’s deputy director.

Fincannon most recently served as Senior Vice President for Investor Relations for the Business Council of Alabama. She worked with BCA for over 25 years as part of its senior team, working with a diverse range of business leaders and CEOs of Alabama’s largest employers. During that time, she also served as BCA’s liaison to Alabama’s trade associations and to the more than 100 chambers of commerce throughout the state. She also served on the President’s Committee and Corporate Partners Committee for the Alabama Automotive Manufacturer’s Association and was a part of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association’s membership committee.

“Elaine Fincannon’s extensive knowledge and experience with the public and private sector in our state made her an ideal choice to be ADECA’s new deputy director, and I am pleased that she has decided to bring those talents to the agency,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “Elaine is mission-focused, forward-thinking and detailed-oriented, which are the exact skills needed to serve as deputy director of ADECA. She and I will work closely together to continue supporting Gov. Ivey’s mission of improving the lives of all Alabamians.”

Fincannon is an active member of the community, serving as a member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League of Montgomery, the Montgomery Humane Society, Auburn University Montgomery Alumni Association and other volunteer efforts. She also served as a member of the American Society of Association Executives and was an officer of the Association of State Chamber Professionals. She has a bachelor’s degree of science from AUM and was honored with a Distinguished Chamber Professional Award in 2019 by the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.

Fincannon joins ADECA with a focus on working with Boswell to meet the agency’s mission to strengthen and support local communities.

“It is an honor to join ADECA during this time, and I am grateful to Director Boswell and Gov. Ivey for this appointment,” Fincannon said. “I plan to work diligently to serve the people of Alabama to the absolute best of my ability.”

 

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Alabama Workforce Council delivers annual report touting improved career pathways

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The Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) recently delivered its Annual Report to Gov. Kay Ivey and members of the legislature. The report highlights the many and varied workforce successes from 2019. It also outlines policy recommendations to further solidify Alabama as a leader in workforce development and push the state closer to Ivey’s goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the state’s workforce by 2025.

Gov. Ivey acknowledged the recent progress stating, “the continued efforts of the AWC and the various state agency partners in transforming our workforce are substantial. Significant work has been accomplished to ensure all Alabamians have a strong start and strong finish. We will continue to bolster our state’s economy through dynamic workforce development solutions to help us reach our ambitious goal.”

The AWC, formed in 2015, was created as an employer-led, statewide effort to understand the structure, function, organization and perception of the Alabama workforce system. The goal of the AWC is to facilitate collaboration between government and industry to help Alabama develop a sustainable workforce that is competitive on a global scale. 

“This report details the tremendous efforts of the dedicated AWC members and their partners who have greatly contributed to the progress of building a highly-skilled workforce.” noted Tim McCartney, Chairman of the AWC. “To meet ever-growing job needs of an expanding economy, we have put forth recommendations to bring working-age Alabamians sitting on the sidelines back into the workforce to address our low workforce participation rate.”

Included among the many highlights from the report are:

  • Created the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship to support apprenticeships and work-based learning statewide.
  • Established the Alabama Committee on Credentialing & Career Pathways (ACCCP) to identify credentials of value that align with in-demand career pathways across Alabama.
  • Furthered foundational work toward cross-agency outcome sharing through the Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS).
  • Commissioned statewide surveys to better understand the characteristics, and potential barriers, of the priority population groups (during record-low unemployment) identified as likely to enter or re-enter the state’s workforce. 
  • Provided technical assistance, support staff and grant writing services to a cohort of over 30 nonprofits from across the state enabling them to expand services and directly connect more Alabamians to training and economic opportunity. Services helped cohort members secure over $6.4 million in grant money through various out-of-state grant programs.
  • Identified and evaluated 17 population segments of potential workers and determined the likelihood of adding members of those respective population segments into the workforce. Within this process, issues affecting the state’s labor participation rate were also detailed. 

Vice-Chair of the AWC Sandra Koblas of Austal USA commented, “the energy around workforce development in Alabama right now is incredibly exciting. We are working together with businesses, nonprofits and agency partners to reduce barriers, increase opportunities and grow the state’s overall economy.”

The full report can be viewed here.

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To learn more about the Alabama Workforce Council please visit: www.alabamaworks.com/alabama-workforce-council

 

 

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Shelby announces $733,150 ARC POWER Grant for Opportunity Alabama

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Wednesday announced that Opportunity Alabama, Inc., a nonprofit initiative in Birmingham, Alabama, is the recipient of a $733,150 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant.  This grant will fund the Creating Opportunity for Alabama (COAL) Initiative.

“ARC’s decision to award this funding to Opportunity Alabama will help significantly boost private investment and business development throughout our state’s coal-impacted communities,” said Senator Shelby.  “I am proud this nonprofit initiative is working to help our local communities understand and capitalize on Opportunity Zones.  These federal funds will facilitate an improved quality of life in Appalachian Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs and dozens of new businesses.”

“Opportunity Zones, and the private investment they incentivize, are helping uplift communities throughout the Appalachian Region,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas.  “Opportunity Alabama is working to ensure communities understand and are able to capitalize on this program to improve Appalachian Alabama, and this POWER investment will have a big impact on that mission.”

 The project will create an investment funding and business development ecosystem targeted to the federally designated Opportunity Zones in 36 coal-impacted counties in Alabama.  As a result of the ARC grant, Opportunity Alabama will work with a team of local, state, and national partners in a three-phased approach.  The first phase will work on building a local capacity to effectively prepare for and attract Opportunity Zone investments, focusing particularly on rural communities.  The second phase will create a pipeline of investment opportunities to attract substantial private investment by facilitating demand studies, environmental assessments, and construction cost estimates.  The third and final phase will focus on developing and implementing an impact-investment data collection and analysis process to make it easier for investors to deploy their capital.

This project will yield 250 new jobs, create 25 new businesses, and leverage $100 million in private investment.  In addition to the federal grant provided for the project, Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Foundation are expected to provide private financial support.

Opportunity Alabama is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in Alabama’s Opportunity Zones.

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