By Paul Demarco
A recent report of those unemployed in the state shows that Alabama is still suffering from the effects of the pandemic, but we’re heading in the right direction. The Alabama Department of Labor reported that the most recent numbers from October showed the unemployment rate at 5.8%, down from 6.7% in September.
A year ago, the numbers showed that Alabama was at record-low unemployment, with only 2.6% of Alabama residents out of work. However, compare that with the high 14% rate of joblessness in the midst of the pandemic and the state shutdown in April.
Thus, it looks like more residents of the state are getting back to work on a more permanent basis, despite a surge in COVID-19 across the nation. And Gov. Kay Ivey has made it clear she will not shut down businesses again despite the increase in the number of those infected with the virus. Other state governors have returned to the strict restrictions that had been in place in spring and summer that devastated so many employers and employees.
Before the pandemic, Alabama’s economy was soaring. Unemployment had reached historic lows and the state has earned numerous accolades for being one of the best places to do business in the nation. In addition, the Alabama Department of Commerce has reported that from 2012 until 2019, the state had economic development activity of some $44 billion in new capital investment, which led to 135,000 current and future jobs.
With the state’s shelter-in-place order last spring, small businesses struggled to stay open to cover their payroll, rent and other expenses. Even with the federal benefits that came soon after, it has been a tough year for those business owners who have tried to stay afloat. Now that the restrictions have been removed, the busy holiday season will be “make or break” for some of the state’s smallest companies, particularly retailers and those in the hospitality industry.
With the news of at least what appears to be three effective vaccines soon to begin nationwide distribution this month, hopefully we are closer to the end of the pandemic. Business owners are working to stay open and provide a safe environment for both employees and customers, so hopefully both the unemployment rate and those sick with the coronavirus will continue to decrease in Alabama.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.