As we at the Alabama Department of Labor are wrapping up our facts and figures for 2015, and preparing to begin reporting on 2016’s progress to date, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the highs we experienced over the past year, and their impact on our state’s economy.
As far as job growth goes, we ended 2015 with a bang! Back in January 2015, economists predicted that Alabama’s wage and salary employment would increase by 33,800 jobs. We surpassed those expectations and added 45,500 jobs from January to December. Our annual job growth percentage was 1.69%. We haven’t seen a job growth percentage that high since 2006! The number of jobs our economy was supporting in December was 1,968,800 – the last time we supported that many jobs was way back in November 2008.
As a matter of fact, almost all of our economic indicators are back at 2008 levels. This is important to note because Alabama didn’t technically enter the “great recession” until mid-2009. We were a little late to the party, in large part because our manufacturing sector was able to withstand losses longer than other states were. So now that our leading indicators are at or close to toward pre-recession levels, we can begin to breathe a little easier. We are, slowly but surely, catching up to the rest of the country, which, due to entering the recession before us, began to see recovery a little earlier than we did.
In addition to our strong wage and salary numbers, the total count of employed people remained over two million during all of 2015. Until recently, we haven’t seen the employment number rise above two million since – you guessed it – 2008. Our labor force is strong, meaning that Alabamians are out there pounding the pavement to go to work or to look for work. They are confident they can land a job, and employers are demonstrating confidence in the economy, because they continue to hire. Governor Robert Bentley’s administration recruited 52,000 jobs to the state in 2015, and those jobs will only help to improve our employment numbers in 2016.
Another sign of increased confidence is our construction sector employment. There was a 5% increase in construction jobs from December 2014 to December 2015. Construction employment in Alabama fell into a slump beginning in 2009, and now, we’re seeing that slump end. In fact, Alabama ranks 20th in the country for construction job growth. It is often said that construction doesn’t drive the economy, but the economy drives construction. That’s certainly proving true in Alabama.
Aerospace Manufacturing is proving to be an industry with strong growth in Alabama. Out of the 11 states participating in this industry, we’re ranked first for job growth!
Even with all of these positive indicators, I will be the first to admit that we are not yet where we need to be. There are still more than 130,000 Alabamians who don’t have jobs. We continue to support Governor Bentley’s mission to not rest until we’ve helped these people as well. We were very busy in 2015, traveling to the nooks and crannies in the state, bringing our services to those who need them the most, but in some cases, weren’t able to come to us. So we went to them. We held multiple job fairs, job readiness workshops, phone banks, and other events to make sure that all Alabamians are aware of the free services we provide to help them get back on their feet and take care of their families.
Our free online jobs database, www.joblink.alabama.gov, continued to receive record numbers of job orders from employers. We know there are jobs out there, and it’s our mission to make sure that those who need a job are connected with employers who are looking for that “just right” candidate. The staff at our 48 career centers are ready and willing to make that happen. They can assist jobseekers in polishing their résumés, brushing up on their interview skills, and helping them get the certifications or degrees they need to land their dream job. Employers can advertise jobs for free, take advantage of pre-screening services, and even use our facilities to conduct interviews. (Find your nearest career center at www.joblink.alabama.gov.)
2015 was a good year, and I hope 2016 will follow suit, or better yet, exceed last year’s successes. It’s also my hope that anyone who needs a job, or wants a better job, will take advantage of the services available to them, and come see us! Here’s to 2016!