A Message from AlabamaWorks!
By Tim McCartney
Alabama’s job creators are thankful that Governor Kay Ivey recently submitted Alabama’s 30-day notice to President Biden that it is time to get back to work.
As Chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council, I know Alabama employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find workers to fill available jobs. Survey after survey of businesses in Alabama reveal that there is an abundance of jobs available, and real wages have increased in Alabama over the past year. Despite this, employers are having trouble filling open positions.
Since Alabama’s economy began feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, over one million Alabamians have filed an initial unemployment claim. To respond to the sheer scale of the nationwide economic dislocations linked to COVID-19, the U.S. Congress created several new unemployment compensation programs to help people that were out of work due to the pandemic. At that time the programs were a good idea and were certainly needed. However, now the COVID-19 spread has been contained. Over 1.5 million Alabamians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and two-thirds of Alabamians over the age of 65 have been fully vaccinated. There are currently more than 1,300 health providers offering COVID-19 vaccinations in Alabama, and all Alabamians over the age of 16 are eligible for the vaccine. As Governor Ivey said, “this is absolutely now a managed pandemic.”
We are very fortunate in Alabama that our economy is rebounding so quickly. Alabama’s March 2021 unemployment rate of 3.8 percent is well below the national unemployment rate and it is the lowest in the Southeastern United States. Among the 50 states, Alabama currently ranks in the top 10 when it comes to economic momentum. Economic development activity across Alabama generated nearly $5 billion in new capital investment and almost 10,000 new job commitments in 2020.
Paradoxically, the federal programs designed to serve as a lifeline for Alabamians and our economy during the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have put Alabama’s full economic recovery at risk. Continuing to depend on this extra federal assistance is harming our recovery, in part because so many of our employers are unable to operate at full capacity due to labor shortages. A growing number of other states are coming to the same conclusion and have also announced they are ending their participation in these federal programs.
The bottom line is that Alabama could not afford to continue participating in these programs. Doing so would reverse the recovery that Governor Ivey has so painstakingly fostered. That is why Governor Ivey announced on May 10 that Alabama will cease participation in the extended federal unemployment compensation programs.
Alabama’s economic success and low unemployment rate, particularly in the face of a global pandemic, is a testament to the soundness of Governor Ivey’s decision to pragmatically reopen Alabama’s economy. There are definitely people who still need unemployment benefits, and they should receive eligible assistance.
They should also know that the state offers an abundance of training, education and employment assistance so they can reenter the job market quickly and gain the skills and credentials they need to find family-sustaining employment. Through AlabamaWorks (www.alabamaworks.com), our state offers an effective and unified network of services designed to recruit, train and empower a highly skilled workforce driven by business and industry needs.
The human and economic toll taken by this pandemic is unquantifiable, and the full impact may never be truly known. Nevertheless, the resiliency of Alabama’s people is one inspiring story to tell in a saga otherwise devoid of good news. Alabamians have endured this temporary “new normal” for over 14 months, and now it is time to return to the real normal in our economy, as well.
Getting Alabamians back to work the best solution to keep our economy growing. Thank you, Governor Ivey.
Tim McCartney, formerly of McCartney Construction in Gadsden, is the Chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council.