MONTGOMERY — Alabama’s 3.1% unemployment rate is the lowest in the Southeast and among the lowest in the country. State leaders have repeatedly pointed to this impressive mark as a sign of the state’s economic recovery from the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw unemployment soar to nearly 14% last year.
Yet, employers across the state are struggling to find enough workers to fill jobs, forcing some to cut back business hours or production.
Why the economic disparity? It could have to do with the number of Alabamians actually participating in the workforce, a figure that has shrunk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.
The oldest football rivalry among historically black colleges has made its way to Birmingham. Tuskegee University and Morehouse College will have their first game in the Magic City Saturday. Read more.
The state authority charged with distributing up to $263 million in federal funding for emergency rental assistance told a panel of lawmakers Wednesday it has pledged for distribution most of the money, eliminating the risk of a federal take back.
So far, about 3,307 Alabamians have received a total of nearly $22 million in pandemic-related rental assistance. Read more.
Labor data shows recent increases in wages and workers in Alabama’s leisure and hospitality industry, though the number of workers has not reached pre-pandemic levels and some restaurants still are scrambling to hire help.
One Birmingham restaurateur says he’s still dealing with major staffing shortages.
“It’s crazy … I work more now than I did 50 years ago, when I first came to the United States,” said George Sarris, owner of Southside’s Fish Market, who came to Birmingham from Greece.
The pandemic had a major effect on restaurants and their workers. Dozens of Birmingham-area restaurants closed their doors due to the pandemic. The research firm Datassential reported in late March that 10% of all restaurants in the country had closed permanently since the pandemic started.
But hospitality employment numbers have improved recently, both throughout the country and in Alabama. Read more.
Alabama’s unemployment rate continued to tick downward in August to 3.1%, down from 3.2% in July and 7.1% in August 2020.
“Alabama continues our streak of dropping unemployment, getting more of our people back to work and able to provide for their families, and we are seeing our jobs count and wages consistently rise,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a written statement Friday. “Employers in Alabama have jobs to fill, and they’re doing so at a good pace. We’re proud of the progress Alabama is making as we continue to overcome the challenges we faced due to the pandemic. Alabama is working again, and we know our work is not done yet.”
The rate hit a pandemic high of 13.2% in April 2020. It was in the 2% range prior to the virus’ arrival in the state and subsequent slowdowns and shutdowns.
The number of students graduating from Alabama high schools and entering state universities and colleges dipped by 5% in 2020 to 41%.
While that decrease can in part be blamed on COVID-19-caused disruptions, it’s also part of a larger decline that education officials say is a sign of a strong economy. In 2011, 53% of high school graduates went directly to in-state colleges.
“I think it mostly can be attributed since 2011 to an improvement in the economy,” Jim Purcell, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, said. Post-Great Recession, more jobs have been available to people right out of high school.
But as the state works to find more skilled workers, higher education leaders are trying new ways to reach them. Purcell said that as people’s careers advance or manufacturing jobs become more automated, training and courses are available.
MONTGOMERY — Alabama’s unemployment rate was 3.2% in July, down from 3.3% in June and 7.4% in July 2020.
That’s a continued drop since a pandemic-high of 13.2% in April 2020. Prior to virus-related slowdowns and shutdowns, the state’s unemployment rate was in the 2% range.
“Each month we edge closer and closer to our pre-pandemic unemployment rate,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a written statement Friday morning. “Employers have added over 73,000 jobs in the past year, and nearly 83,000 more people are working today than they were last year. Industries that were hit the hardest are seeing employment numbers increase monthly. We’ll keep working as hard as we can to continue this remarkable progress.” Read more.
Millions of Americans receiving assistance with food and groceries will see an increase of about 25% in their benefits this fall thanks to new legislation approved by the Biden Administration on Monday. Read more.
Alabama automakers and parts suppliers began investments in electric vehicles several years ago, and the list continues to grow.
Among the companies that have announced plans for new or expanded operations involving electric vehicles are New Flyer in Anniston, DURA Automotive Systems in Muscle Shoals, Hyundai in Montgomery and Honda in Lincoln.
Alabama Graphite Products plans a first-of-its-kind advanced graphite processing plant in Coosa County to help with the production of an essential material in batteries that power electric vehicles, electronics and other green energy products.
Earlier this summer, the State of Alabama awarded 18 grants worth more than $4 million to help private entities add electric vehicle charging stations for public use. However, during the process, the state received 76 applications requesting more than $18 million.
“Eighteen million dollars in requests does show the demand for these charging stations,” Kenneth Boswell, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, told Alabama Daily News.
Those grants, mostly funded through a Volkswagen settlement over the automaker’s violation of the federal Clean Air Act, focused on the I-20, I-59 corridor. “It captured a small portion of the state,” Boswell said about the grants.
Now, ADECA is working on a statewide EV charging plan that will show where stations are needed, including along evacuation routes.
“It will cover all aspects of where charging stations need to be to cut down on fuel anxiety issues that an electric car owner would have,” Boswell said.