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Alabama’s labor participation rate remains at 57% as leaders talk improvement strategy

Alabama’s unemployment rate ticked up slightly in September to 2.2%, still below the 2.6% of a year ago. 

The rate represents 50,179 unemployed Alabamians, compared to 48,590 in August and 60,488 in September 2022, the Alabama Department of Labor said this morning.

Meanwhile, the workforce participation rate — which has become the unemployment statistic state leaders are most focused on — remained 57% last month.

The percentage of workers between the ages of 25 and 54 increased by two-tenths of a percentage point to 78% over the month.

“In Alabama, more than three-quarters of our prime-age working population is working,” Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said in a written statement. “We’re happy to see this monthly increase and are hopeful that continuing efforts to increase the labor force participation rate will help to bring these numbers up even higher.”

The number of Alabamians counted as employed increased by 35,931 over the year to a new record high of 2,259,784. 

“Additionally, we’re seeing increases in Alabamians’ wages,” Washington said. “Over the year, total weekly private wages increased by $20.44, putting more money in workers’ pockets.”

A state panel met this week to work on recommendations to improve workforce development initiatives. 

The Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce was created through legislation in 2019 with the mission of assessing Alabama’s workforce conditions and making recommendations for ways to improve competitiveness. 

The panel released a report in 2020 detailing initial recommendations, including prioritizing workforce participation and expanding engagement with businesses in aligning training curriculum.

Its newest recommendations haven’t yet been released, but will be presented to Gov. Kay Ivey and the Legislature prior to the February kickoff of the 2024 legislative session.

“When you look at all that our state has to offer, you begin to realize that with an aligned and centrally coordinated plan for success, Alabama is primed to be the workforce engine of the Southeast,” Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said this week in a written statement.

Also on the commission are Alabama Power Company CEO Jeff Peoples; PowerSouth Energy Cooperative CEO Gary Smith; state Sens. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville; Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook; Donnie Chesteen, R-Dothan; Linda Coleman Madison, D-Birmingham; and state Reps. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville; Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville; Joe Lovvorn. R-Auburn; and Debbie Wood, R-Valley.

Garrett, chairman of the House education budget committee, on Thursday told Alabama Daily News that various education and workforce entities need to be better aligned.

“We need a statewide strategy to make sure we’re all moving in the same direction,” Garrett said.

He also said those groups need to be more responsive to the needs of employers, ensuring people are being trained for high-demand jobs.

In the statement, Lawrence said it’s time to lay out the future of Alabama’s workforce system.

“No matter what metric you look at with regard to labor force participation, Alabama is approximately 5% below the national average,” said Lawrence. “The time is now for the state of Alabama to make improvements to our workforce system that can see us compete with other states when it comes to having a robust, well-trained workforce.”

Garrett also said that the career centers around the state, where people can learn about job and education opportunities near them, need to become “outreach centers” to recruit the currently unemployed and underemployed. 


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