6 months ago

‘Alabama is breaking record after record’: Four historic bests for the state’s economy

The Yellowhammer State shattered four key economic records last month, according to data released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.

In May, the state set new bests for the number of people in the labor force, the number of people working, the overall job count (jobs available) and a record low unemployment rate.

Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate was 3.7%, down from April’s rate of 3.8% and significantly below May 2018’s rate of 4.1%. This most recent rate is now tied with March and February 2019’s rates for the lowest unemployment rate in state history.

Each county experienced both over-the-month and over-the-year unemployment rate decreases.

“Since day one, my Administration has sought the best ways to make our state business-friendly for small businesses and attractive to world-class industry. It is certainly paying off because in May, each of Alabama’s 67 counties saw their unemployment rates drop,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.

In May, the number of people counted as employed in Alabama rose to 2,150,481, another historic mark. This employment count represents an impressive yearly increase of 40,720 people.

“Alabama is breaking record after record! I am proud of the footing we are making; however, we will not tire our efforts,” the governor added. “It remains our goal to ensure every Alabamian who wants a job can get a job.”

Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 38,800, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+8,900), the leisure and hospitality sector (+7,300) and the construction sector (+6,700), among others.

Wage and salary employment also increased over the month, growing by 7,100 compared to April. Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+2,600), the trade, transportation and utilities sector (+2,000) and the government sector (+1,000), among others.

Additionally, the Yellowhammer State’s civilian labor force increased to 2,233,045 in May, representing its highest level ever. The civilian labor force represents the number of people, aged 16 and over, who are either working or looking for work, excluding the military and those in institutions.

“What great news we have to share this month,” Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said. “We’ve been consistently posting positive economic news, and this month is more of the same. More people are working, employers are hiring, and we’ve once again dropped to a record low unemployment rate. The job market is great in Alabama!”

Over-the-year job growth (May 2018-May 2019, not seasonally adjusted) in Alabama measured 1.9%, while job growth in the U.S. over the same time period measured 1.5%.

“Once again, Alabama’s job growth has surpassed the nation’s,” Washington concluded. “Our economy is supporting more jobs than ever before, and Alabama’s employers are continuing to hire. It’s our hashtag, but it’s true: We Have Jobs!”

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in May were: Shelby County at 2.1%; Marshall County at 2.3%; and Morgan and Elmore Counties at 2.4%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were: Wilcox County at 6.6%; Greene County at 5.7%; and Lowndes County at 5.6%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were: Vestavia Hills at 1.8%; Homewood at 1.9%; and Alabaster and Hoover at 2.1%.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were: Selma at 6.2%; Prichard at 5.4%; and Anniston at 4.1%.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

You’re invited!

The biggest birthday party in Alabama’s history is taking place on December 14, and you are invited! Join us in Montgomery for the grand finale celebration of our state’s 200th birthday.

Watch the parade, listen to concerts and performances, visit open houses and much more.

This is sure to be a day you don’t want to miss. The event is free to the public and lasts all day starting with an elaborate parade at 10:00 a.m. The parade will travel from Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery up Dexter Avenue to the State Capitol. There will be marching bands, city floats and unique displays of Alabama history on wheels, such as the USS Alabama and U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The parade is a great opportunity for families to enjoy the celebration together – and it’s only the beginning of a packed day. Following the parade, Governor Kay Ivey will dedicate Bicentennial Park. The afternoon will offer performances, exhibitions and open houses throughout downtown Montgomery. The day will conclude with a concert featuring popular musicians from Alabama and the history of Alabama presented in a never-before-seen way.

Visit Alabama 200 Finale for a complete rundown of the day’s events.

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2 hours ago

Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn: What a difference a week makes

Think back for a moment, if you will. Think back to the middle of last week, where all was right in Tuscaloosa and all was, well, on edge in Auburn.

Crimson Tide fans were confident about their team taking care of business in the Iron Bowl and once again watching their beloved head coach lead Bama into the College Football Playoffs. Auburn fans were hoping for the best — after all, the Iron Bowl was at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the Tigers were facing an Alabama team with a back-up quarterback. Still, many of the Auburn faithful had their head coach in mind — a coach, they thought, who could be a goner if he lost to the Tide.

Fast forward to today … whoa!

The coach they call “The GOAT” has been taking heat from national pundits, while Gus Malzahn is off the hot seat and relishing in the fact that he has beaten Nick Saban two of the last three years. Malzahn should be proud, as he’s the only active coach in the SEC who has beaten Saban more than once — in fact, Malzahn is 3-4 overall against the Alabama coach.

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Why the criticism of the man thought by millions to be the greatest coach in college football history?

Some national media talking heads feel the Nick Saban dynasty is starting to crumble. ESPN’s Paul Finebaum has been very critical of the coach on the network’s many platforms this week. Now, before you scream to yourself, “Who cares what that scrawny pencil-necked geek who has never played a down of football thinks?” I’m here to tell you that skinny Finebaum carries a lot of weight. His opinions are often peppered with inside info and truths that indeed pan out.

So, buy into Paul’s statements or discard them completely if you must, but here is what Finebaum said on ESPN: “We’re not saying that Saban is done, but we’re saying that this dynasty’s window is closing. It’s been a really disappointing season. He’s lost two of the last three to Clemson and now he’s lost two of the last three to Auburn. … He promised after a 28-point loss to Clemson that the Alabama factor would be re-established. Has anyone seen it? There’s no discipline … defense is where the problem is. The team against the last three top-20 opponents has given up 44, 46 and 48 points. That’s not the Alabama team I’m accustomed to.”

Paul certainly raises some good points. Perhaps you can liken the situation to fishing: when I catch a fish, I consider it luck; when I catch two fish very quickly, I consider it a pattern. Is there a pattern to Alabama’s recent setbacks? One pattern? To Paul’s point: against the last four top-20 opponents, the Crimson Tide defense has surrendered 34 points (Oklahoma), 44 points (Clemson), 46 points (LSU) and 48 points (Auburn). Does this mean the Bama dynasty is ending? Well, not so fast, Paul!

In our “what have you done for me lately?” world, let’s discuss what Nick Saban has done lately — say, over the last five years. Over that span, Saban is 65-6 — he’s played in four national championship games and won two of them. In fact, he’s won five of the last 10. This season is actually the first time since the playoffs began six years ago that Bama has failed to make the playoffs. It’s also the first time in six years that Bama has lost more than one game. Like I told a Bama fan the other day: “Man, you people lose two games and you want to drive your car into a ditch.”

Where Finebaum sees a pattern, I see a single football season that saw the Crimson Tide lose two games by a total of eight points — that as injuries plagued the team, from the pre-season departure of Dylan Moses to the departure a few weeks ago of Tua Tagovailoa. Are you a Bama fan? Sleep well tonight, because your team, and your coach, are just fine.

Now on to Gus Malzahn, a man who falling asleep doesn’t count sheep but rather counts X’s and O’s. The coach’s mind is full of more knowledge than you can imagine: a self-professed football nerd, if this man was your 8th-grade classmate, you’d be asking him if he could take your algebra test for you.

So how does this quiet and at times aloof head coach keep getting off the mat just when you think his days are numbered? With drive, with brilliance and with some Jordan-Hare Stadium magic, where he has beaten Saban in three of the last four meetings at home. When the Iron Bowl is played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, anything can, and usually does, happen. Example: 2013? The Prayer in Jordan-Hare followed by the Kick Six. 2017? Just when the heat was on, Malzahn beat Georgia and then Bama to grab a spot in the SEC Championship Game. And 2019? How about a pair of pick-sixes, an effective offense that we have not seen this season and a spot-on field goal kicker?

For all of Gus Malzahn’s critics, the blue-collar, “us against the world coach” comes up big just when he needs it most. And while those critics point to Malzahn’s predictable play-calling, his refusal to change his offensive philosophy and his smoke and mirror formations which they say mask a talent base that is not up to snuff, Malzahn continues to walk his fans back from the ledge with clutch victories.

Auburn fans will tell you that watching football can be harmful to the heart because the team’s ups and downs certainly mess with the blood pressure. But after a win like Tiger fans witnessed last weekend, they’ll take it, and look forward to the next game that the Tigers play. And their coach? Let Saban eat at Ruth’s Chris, Gus eats at Waffle House.

Who’da thunk it? Nick Saban knocked off his throne, while Gus Malzahn wears the Iron Bowl crown. What’s next? Bowl games for both teams and then preparations for the 2020 college football season. What’s on tap for next season? If you root for Bama, I wouldn’t count on the team’s success drying up. And if you root for Auburn? That team’s success is not drying up, but rather warming up.

I’m not sure what we will see from these coaches next season, but I do know this about 2019: what a difference a week makes!

Rick Karle is a 24-time Emmy winning broadcaster and a special sports contributor to Yellowhammer News. He is also the host of the Huts and Nuts podcast.

3 hours ago

7 Things: Impeachment hearings go on, Sessions destroys Harris, Buttigieg keeps searching for black votes in Alabama and more …

7. We are back to Russia, apparently

  • The impeachment hearings started up again, and now it looks like the House Judiciary Committee Democrats are going to try and include the Mueller report in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
  • Until now, the impeachment inquiry has just focused on President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has now said, “President Donald Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election, and demanded it for the 2020 election.” This just seems to open the door for the Democrats to include another investigation that failed to bring a conviction.

6. Brooks praises food stamp changes

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  • U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) applauded the Trump administration tightening work requirements for people receiving food stamps and making it harder for states to waive work requirements for able-bodied individuals — a plan that will save $5.5 billion dollars over five years.
  • Brooks said in a statement, “I fully support the Trump Administration’s efforts to bar able-bodied, working age Americans from receiving food stamps, SNAP, or any other food benefits they can and should be paying for with money they earn themselves.”

5. Executions coming back?

  • In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, Alabama and 13 other states are advocating for President Donald Trump’s plan to bring back federal executions, which came after the Justice Department requested that the Supreme Court allow the first execution in 17 years.
  • The DOJ wants to carry out the execution using a new process, as opposed to a three-drug cocktail that was previously used because of lawsuits by murderers and their advocates that the process is “cruel and unusual.”

4. Byrne highlights how illegal immigration is harming children

  • During a Democrat hearing called, “Growing Up in Fear: How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children,” U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) made the point that not enforcing immigration laws harms Americans and specifically children.
  • Byrne also confronted his colleagues about the cost of illegal immigration to America’s schools, which they had no response to, and criticized them for attacking President Donald Trump for enforcing current immigration law.

3. Buttigieg’s pandering tour of Alabama continues

  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg visited Birmingham to meet with Birmingham leaders, including Mayor Randall Woodfin, and he discussed immigration and raising the minimum wage.
  • Buttigieg made it clear that he supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, but then he went on to discuss immigration and his visa program to increase immigration, saying “If we want population growth in rural America, let’s welcome new Americans.”

2. Sessions finishes off Harris

  • Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions mocked U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) for ending her 2020 Democratic presidential campaign. Recently, she had made headlines for asking her supporters to donate to U.S. Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) reelection campaign, saying that she “fought Jeff Sessions every step of the way, voting against his nomination as Attorney General and calling for his resignation when it became clear he lied under oath to protect the President.”
  • When she announced her campaign was ending, Sessions appeared on Fox News where he discussed the issue, saying that Harris claimed some of her “great achievements was to stand up to Jeff Sessions, Brett Kavanaugh, Attorney General Barr and President Trump.” He added, Well, she’s 0 for 4. All four of them are still standing – and she’s out.”

1. A hearing with constitutional law professors will surely move the needle

  • The latest round of impeachment hearings took place in Washington, D.C. with four constitutional law professors testifying before Congress on the matter of impeachment. There were three Democrat witnesses and one Republican witness in the hearing that went on all day and convinced absolutely no one to change their mind.
  • The Democrats’ witnesses insisted that impeachment was necessary, while the Republican witness made the point that moving forward with impeachment given the current facts will only lower the bar for future impeachments.

5 hours ago

Byrne: ‘Illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities’

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) on Wednesday spoke during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing centered on immigration.

While Democrats called the hearing, “Growing Up in Fear: How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children,” Byrne argued that not enforcing immigration laws actually harms children born to legal American residents and citizens.

“It is amazing we are here to talk about ‘How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children’ but we never, never talk about how illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities. People who are here legally are being harmed by this,” Byrne said.

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After asking Democrat witnesses about the costs of illegal immigration to our nation’s schools — and apparently stumping them, Byrne criticized Democrats who attacked President Donald Trump for enforcing immigration laws while they themselves did not even ask about the cost of failing to enforce those laws.

The coastal Alabama congressman’s line of questioning highlighted that these costs are borne by states and local school systems and ultimately come at the detriment of students.

Byrne’s full remarks during the hearing as follows:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In 2016, the Pew Research Center estimated that 3.9 million – or 7.3% – of kindergarten through 12th grade students in the United States were either here illegally or were the children of at least one parent illegally present in the United States.

Can anyone tell me how much we spend on public education for that population of students? It’s around $60 billion.

A significant and increasing percentage of these costs represent remedial English education, required by the federal government for students designated as Limited English Proficiency or LEP. In 2016, it was estimated that 9.6% of all students and 17% of kindergarten students were now designated as LEP. Educating those students is expensive. By some estimations, we are spending $59 billion just on ESL and other programs to help children with English language deficiency.

Can anyone tell me what percentage of teachers in the United States are certified or trained in ESL? It’s about one percent.

How about what percentage of ESL Programs are paid for by the federal government that requires them? Just over 1 percent.

Who pays for the rest? States and local school systems!

So, we require it and we push 99% of the costs on state and local school systems. That costs a lot of money for these state and local school systems. Many of them like my state of Alabama just don’t have it. But because the federal government requires it, they have to put that money in there to the detriment of other programs.

At least 13 states spend over $1 billion per year on limited English proficiency programs in public schools.

Earlier this year, this committee found that there is a $46 billion public school infrastructure shortfall. Accounting for inflation, teacher salaries are down 1.6% since 2000. Classroom sizes are growing. Resources for students are shrinking.

It is amazing we are here to talk about ‘How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children’ but we never, never talk about how illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities. People who are here legally are being harmed by this.

The federal government has mandated that we provide public education to the children of illegal immigrants, but we don’t pay for it! States and local school districts do!

How is that fair? How is that right that we make the requirement here at the federal government and we put up one percent of the cost?

I’m a former state school board member in Alabama. I have sat across from teachers and superintendents and talked to them about this issue. Dollars that our schools have, they are not unlimited. The states don’t print money like we do here in Washington. They have requirements that they balance their budgets. Coming up with the money to fund these K-12 education programs around the country is extremely difficult.

So, I think if we are going to sit here and criticize the president for enforcing the law, we need to also think about the cost of not enforcing the law.

That cost is not being borne by those of us in Washington. It’s being borne by men and women and the states and local school systems around the United States of America. But really the cost is being borne by children who are being denied the programs that they should have. Children who are citizens of the United States, whose parents are citizens of the United States, they’re being denied programs because we’re forcing their state and local school systems to take on an expense that we should be taking on because we’ve failed to enforce our own laws.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Brooks applauds Trump administration’s new rule tightening work requirements for food stamp recipients

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (AL-05) praised the Trump administration on Wednesday for announcing a rule that will tighten work requirements for people receiving food stamps.

Before this new rule, states had been able to get waivers exempting people in regions with unemployment higher than the national average from the work requirements. After the new rule, to get those waivers, the unemployment level in an area will need to be at least 6%.

Brooks said in a statement, “I fully support the Trump Administration’s efforts to bar able-bodied, working age Americans from receiving food stamps, SNAP, or any other food benefits they can and should be paying for with money they earn themselves.”

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The USDA says their new rule “promotes work for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents and does not apply to children and their parents, those over 50 years old including the elderly, those with a disability, or pregnant women.”

According to the Associated Press, “The Agriculture Department estimates the change would save roughly $5.5 billion over five years and cut benefits for roughly 688,000 SNAP recipients.”

Congressman Brooks added, “America suffered a $984 billion deficit in FY 2019. America’s accumulated debt has blown through the $23 trillion mark. Every financial guru Congress employs warns that our current financial path is unsustainable and that, as a result, America increasingly risks a debilitating national insolvency and bankruptcy.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.