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PARCA: Alabama’s workforce must grow as boomers retire

By FRED TIPPETT, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A recent report from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama says the state’s working population will shrink in the coming years if more people don’t move here.

The group’s conclusion comes from an analysis of census data that shows a significant size gap between older and younger generations in the state.  As more baby boomers retire, the younger Generation Z and Generation A are not large enough to replace all those retired workers.

The most recent census data estimates there are around 63,000 18-year-olds in the state and slightly under 66,000 64-year-olds in the state. This gap remains when looking at younger ages, especially among those born around the 2008 recession, when birth rates dropped dramatically. 

Considering only the state’s current population, PARCA estimates that over the next 18 years, Alabama’s working-age population will drop by more than 50,000.

The council points out that this shrinking of the workforce could be mitigated by an influx of working-age people from other states or countries. And on that front, Alabama’s numbers are positive.

Between 2010 and 2016, Alabama was gaining about 10,000 new residents a year through international immigration, accounting for most of the state’s population growth during that time period.

And while international immigration has decreased since 2018, domestic immigration has increased, with the state gaining about 20,000 new residents per year from other states in recent years.

While immigration would grow the working-age population overall, state programs and nonprofits are working to improve Alabama’s current workforce.

A major part of that effort is Governor Ivey’s Success Plus plan. Launched in 2018, the plan aims to add 500,000 newly credentialed people to the state’s workforce by 2025.

Alabama has made progress to this goal, having added almost 215,000 post-secondary credentials since 2018. Of those credentials added, about 138,000 were to individuals aged 16 to 24.

“Alabama’s current and future economic growth depends on a highly skilled workforce,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said in a recent press release. “We are on track to meet our goal, which will result in more Alabamians in the workforce.”

Gina Maiola, an Ivey spokesperson, said the governor’s workforce goals also include a renewed focus on everything from K-12 reading and math to bolstering our labor force participation rate to being innovative to prepare for the economy of tomorrow.

Separately Jim Purcell, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, said recently his agency is in the process of reaching out to some graduates who left the state in the last 10 years to let them know about comparable job opportunities here.

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