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House committee to look at reasons behind state’s low labor participation rate

Alabama’s labor force participation rate is lower than nearly every other state’s and a new House committee will attempt to identify some reasons why people aren’t in the workforce.

“Alabama is witnessing record-breaking economic growth and historically low unemployment rates,” Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said in a written statement. “Despite these numbers, in Alabama, there are roughly 140,000 job openings and, at the same time, 48,834 unemployed workers across our state. That means we are lacking nearly 100,000 workers over 16-years-old, which puts our labor force participation rate at a mere 57% — one of the lowest rates in the entire country.”

The House Members serving on the study commission are:

  • Rep. Reed Ingram, R–Pike Road, chairman;
  • Rep. Danny Garrett, R–Trussville; 
  • Rep. Donna Givens, R–Robersdale; 
  • Rep. Anthony Daniels, D–Huntsville; 
  • Rep. James Lomax, R–Huntsville; 
  • Rep. Barbara Drummond, D–Mobile; 
  • Rep. Mike Kirkland, R–Scottsboro; 
  • Rep. Bill Lamb, R–Tuscaloosa; 
  • Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D–Hayneville; 
  • Rep. Curtis Travis, D–Tuscaloosa; 
  • Rep. Chris Pringle, R–Mobile;
  • Rep. Matt Woods, R–Jasper; 
  • Rep. Wes Kitchens, R–Guntersville; 
  • Rep. Jim Carns, R–Birmingham; 
  • Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R–Hartselle.

The committee meets at 10 a.m. Thursday in the State House.

Labor force rates measure able-bodied adults in the workforce. With an August seasonally adjusted rate of 57%, only two states, Mississippi and West Virginia, had worse rates.

Topics and areas of need the group will examine include extending adequate child care to families, ensuring wages and salaries are competitive, addressing workforce housing concerns and offering better and more expansive mental health services.

A lack of reliable, affordable child care in the state has been an issue on leaders’ radar for several years. Separately, a spring report said about one-third of renters in the state are considered extremely low-income and severely burdened by the cost of housing in Alabama.

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