2019 will be remembered for both our bicentennial as a state and for the record low unemployment. Not only are more people working in Alabama than ever before but average wages are also at a record high.
“I’m so proud to be able to close out this decade with record-breaking economic measures,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) said. “Earlier this year, Alabama had never reported an unemployment rate lower than 3.0%, and now we’ve had one for the last three months! Way to go Alabama!”
Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced on Friday that Alabama has maintained its record low unemployment rate, ending 2019 with a preliminary, seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate of 2.7 percent. This is unchanged from November 2019, and well below December 2018’s rate of 3.8% 0ercent
Alabama’s unemployment rate of 2.7 percent is the fifth lowest rate in the entire country; and is tied with Iowa.
“For the eleventh month in a row, our job growth has met or surpassed the nation’s,” said Washington. “We’ve gained over 46,000 jobs since last December, and we continue to see employers posting job ads.”
2,204,740 Alabamians were employed in the month of December. That is a new record high, representing an increase of 83,971 from December 2018.
“Nearly 84,000 more people have jobs now than last year,” Ivey said. “I’m excited about the path that Alabama is on, and the positive impacts this news has on our people.”
Only 61,458 persons were counted as unemployed in December. This is also a new record low and is a drop of 22,051 from last year. The civilian labor force grew by 61,920 over the year, to a new record high of 2,266,198.
Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Workforce development initiatives created through partnerships between businesses, the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL), and AIDT help ensure folks are trained well and can fill available jobs in a variety of industries. Secretary Fitzgerald Washington and his team deserve praise for their willingness to meet Alabamians where they are at and work with companies to design education and training programs aimed to increase skills needed to attain employment. When Alabamians are working, we all benefit.”
Wage and salary employment grew over the year in the state by 46,300. Yearly gains were seen in the professional and business services sector (+15,000), the leisure and hospitality sector (+7,800), and the government sector (+6,100), among others. In December gains were seen in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+4,000), the construction sector (+700), and the professional and business services sector (+200).
Alabama’s job growth rate for December is 2.2 percent and surpassed the national job growth rate of 1.4 percent. This marks the eleventh month that Alabama’s job growth rate has matched or exceeded the national rate. Wages are also increasing.
“Average weekly wages showed significant growth this month, registering at an all-time high,” continued Washington. “Additionally, we saw many sectors and subsectors reach all-time wage highs, including manufacturing, with a monthly wage increase of $25.57, and financial activities, with a monthly wage increase of $50.78.”
Total private average weekly wages measured $875.44 in December, representing a monthly increase of $15.14, and a yearly increase of $8.81.
A number of sectors and sub-sectors set record high weekly wages in December 2019. These include: manufacturing at $1,100.82, private Service Providing at $817.82, financial services at $1,157.10, professional and business services at $1,095.20, leisure and hospitality at $339.24, and other services at $783.82.
The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 1.8 percent; Marshall, Madison, and Cullman Counties at 2.1 percent; and Tuscaloosa, St. Clair, Morgan, Limestone, Lee, and Elmore Counties at 2.2 percent. The counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 6.8 percent, Clarke County at 5.5 percent, and Greene and Lowndes Counties at 4.8 percent.
The major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Vestavia Hills at 1.4 percent, Homewood at 1.6 percent, and Hoover and Northport at 1.7 percent. The major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Prichard at 5.0 percent, Selma at 4.9 percent, and Bessemer at 3.7 percent.
According to classical economists, five percent unemployment is considered ”full employment” and a robust economy.
New unemployment claims continued dropping last week
There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.
Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday.
The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.”
After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release.
Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.
Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:
- Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
- Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
- Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389
PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.
Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.
“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”
Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.
“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”
Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.
“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”
“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”
“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”
“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”
SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally
Thousands of SNAP recipients in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties are set to receive automatic replacement benefits as a result of Hurricane Sally, the Alabama Department of Human Resources announced Thursday.
Recipients who received their benefits Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 will receive a replacement of 50 percent of their regular monthly benefit. Those who received supplemental pandemic maximum allotment payments will receive a replacement of 30 percent of those benefits.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the replacement benefits today at the request of DHR. The benefits are intended to replace food purchased with SNAP that was lost to widespread power outages caused when Hurricane Sally made landfall on Sept. 16.
“Our priority is to remove the very real threat of hunger for the many Alabamians who are struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sally,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “The first step toward that goal is to replace the food that so many Alabamians lost to the storm. We are actively working to obtain additional resources to provide much-needed relief for the region as it recovers.”
Hurricane Sally caused over 265,000 households to lose power for at least four hours in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties, where approximately 54,000 households will receive SNAP benefits totaling an estimated $8.5 million.
Those recipients should expect to see the replacement benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards next week.
The Food Assistance Division of DHR administers the SNAP program in Alabama.
More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.