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Alabama labor participation rate remains 57%; unemployment up slightly in October

Alabama’s labor force participation rate remained at 57% in October. The rate for “prime-age workers,” those age 25 to 54, increased slightly to 78.1%, the Alabama Department of Labor announced Friday morning.

Alabama’s unemployment rate was 2.3% in October, up slightly from September’s rate of 2.2% but below the October 2022  rate of 2.6%. The new rate represents 52,196 unemployed Alabamians, compared to 50,166 in September and 60,443 in October 2022.

This year, state leaders have increased their focus on that labor participation rate — which is lower than the national average.

“We are continuing to see positive growth in our prime-age worker labor force participation rate, with more than three out of every four prime-age Alabamians holding down a job,” Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said in a statement today. “One of the main components of the labor force participation rate is the state’s total population, and Alabama has a larger portion of retired workers. We will continue to work to bring in other, more traditionally underutilized segments of the population to ensure that we are maximizing our workforce.”

On Thursday, a new House study group on labor issues and potential solutions met and heard from several agencies and organizations affected by worker shortages.

Reed Ingram, R-Pike Road, chairs the committee. He said it would look at every group of potential workers to get them into jobs. Forty-three percent of Alabamians sitting out the workforce is unacceptable, he said.

“A lot of (suggestions we’re hearing) are going to be legislation that we’re going to change,” he said Thursday. “A lot of it’s going to be community driven,” Ingram said. “A lot of it is going to be ‘get off your lazy butt and get off the couch and get back in the workforce.’”

Previously identified barriers to the workforce include transportation, health issues, a lack of child care and familial obligations.

Part of the ongoing discussion will be on the state’s minimum wage, which is the federally allowed minimum of $7.25, Ingram said.

“I’m not saying we’re raising the minus wage, I’m saying we’re addressing it,” Ingram said.

Christy deGraffenried, vice president of the Alabama Nursing Home Association, told the committee facilities around the state could hire 1,500 nurses tomorrow.

“We’ve had nursing homes that have closed wings because they don’t have the staff,” deGraffenried said.

She said nursing homes are offering to pay for the educations of potential nurses who will work for them.

House Speaker Pro Tem Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, said too many people aren’t working because they won’t make enough money to afford housing or a vehicle and “can’t make the jump” from public benefits.

“We’ve trapped them in our social safety nets.” Pringle said. “… I know a lot of people who would rather be working. We’ve thrown a safety net on top of them and it holds them down.”

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