2 weeks ago

Unemployment rate in Alabama falls to 5.8%

Alabama’s unemployment rate fell almost an entire percentage point last month, moving from 6.7% in September to 5.8% in October.

Alabama’s total number of persons claiming unemployment in October was 130,329, down from 153,338 in September.

Effects from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continue to dampen the state’s economy compared to a year ago. In October 2019, Alabama’s unemployment rate was 2.7%, with 61,210 persons filing for unemployment at that time.

Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) Secretary Fitzgerald Washington remarked in a statement that his department is “glad to see nearly a drop of almost an entire percentage point in our unemployment rate this month.”

“We will continue to see fluctuations in these economic indicators as pandemic concerns remain, but this month showed growth in both the number of jobs we are supporting and the number of people who are working,” Washington added.

Job gains were made in the construction sector and the trade, transportation, and utilities sector. The biggest gain, around 9,300 jobs, was in the professional and business services sector.

The leisure and hospitality sector, education and services sector, and the government sector remain hard hit during COVID-19, with tens of thousands of jobs lost on a year over year basis across those sectors.

Per the ADOL, “The number of people counted as employed in October was 2,121,505, up from 2,119,297 in September, but down from the 2,186,771 measured in October 2019.”

Counties that came out of October with the lowest unemployment rates were largely more rural counties in the northern area of the state, such as Franklin and Cullman Counties at 3.2%, Marshall and Blount Counties at 3.3%, and Dekalb and Cherokee Counties at 3.4%.

Long a leader in many quality of life statistics for Alabama, Shelby County enjoyed a 3.3% unemployment rate in October. The smaller Randolph County in the center of the state also hit the 3.3% mark.

Among Alabama’s four biggest counties, Madison ranked best at 4.4%, followed by Jefferson at 6.3%, Mobile at 8.0% and Montgomery at 8.6%.

(ADOL)

The worst performing counties in the state were Lowndes and Wilcox Counties, both of which came in with 14.9% unemployment rates. Perry and Dallas Counties placed just above those two, with just over 10% unemployment in both counties.

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

3 mins ago

Ivey calls for ‘return to in-person instruction as soon as possible’

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday released a statement encouraging Alabama education leaders — both on the state and local levels — to get students back to in-person instruction as soon as possible.

This comes as many school districts continue with various forms of instruction other than traditional in-person learning; this includes hybrid formats as well as virtual-only instruction.

Additionally, some school districts, such as Birmingham City Schools, have recently announced a cessation of any in-person instruction as COVID-19 numbers rise nationwide and across the Yellowhammer State.

“Due to COVID-19, 2020 has been an extremely challenging year for everyone, especially for our parents, teachers and students,” Ivey said to begin her statement. “I’m extremely grateful for the flexibility everyone has shown as they have adapted to virtual instruction.”

“However, virtual and remote instruction are stop-gap measures to prevent our students from regressing academically during the pandemic. These practices cannot — and should not — become a permanent part of instructional delivery system in 2021. As we are learning more about COVID-19, we are seeing more and more clear evidence pointing out that our students are safe in the classroom with strong health protocols in place,” the governor continued.

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Notably, Dr. Anthony Fauci in recent days called on leaders to keep schools open.

“If you look at the data, the spread among children and from children is not really very big at all,” he advised.

Ivey on Tuesday added, “There are nearly 9,800 fewer students enrolled statewide in this academic year and a five percent reduction in students on the kindergarten level. This will not only result in a critical learning loss for our students today but will also likely lead to an equally negative impact on the readiness of our workforce in years to come. Additionally, it could have an equally important economic loss that affects the critical funding for our classrooms and teacher units.”

“As we begin the holiday season and contemplate a return to a normalcy in 2021, I strongly urge our education leadership on both the state and local levels to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible,” she concluded. “My Administration will work with Dr. Mackey, all of our local superintendents and the Legislature to ensure that our kids are back in the classroom in 2021. Our employers, our families, our communities, Alabama’s taxpayers, and most importantly, our students, deserve nothing less.”

RELATED: State Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey: ‘I would not recommend’ statewide school shutdown, virtual learning

Ivey in recent weeks also advocated for keeping Alabama businesses open.

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

4 mins ago

Alabama STEM Council names interim executive director ahead of first meeting

Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and director of AIDT, on Monday announced that Lee Meadows, PhD has been named interim executive director of the recently established Alabama STEM Council as the state moves to advance science, technology, engineering, and math education and continue the work of Alabama’s Roadmap to STEM Success.

According to a release, Meadows in this role will work with the leadership of the Alabama STEM Council to help identify and solve barriers to STEM education and discover innovative solutions to meet the future demand of STEM related occupations in the Yellowhammer State.

With over thirty years of experience in science and education, Meadows’ career path has reportedly taken him from teaching chemistry and physics in high school to training and developing future STEM teachers. Helping educators integrate science and technology into their teaching quickly became a passion for Meadows and developing future STEM teachers turned into his personal mission.

Meadows most recently served as a professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) School of Education and prior to that was the co-director of UABTeach, where he helped nurture and train a new teaching force of highly qualified instructors in STEM subjects.

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Alabama is projected to need more than 850,000 STEM-related occupations by 2026, according to Alabama’s Roadmap to STEM Success.

“We are at a critical stage with STEM education in our state, and the Alabama STEM Council will be the leading authority to ensure we are poised for growth and success for many years to come,” stated Castile. “Having someone like Dr. Meadows who is passionate and dedicated to the growth and preparedness of future STEM leaders will set Alabama up for a successful future.”

Educator shortages and a disparity of STEM education available to all students regardless of location, economic status, gender or race provide obstacles to meeting the future demand for STEM-related careers.

In a statement, Meadows warned that “if we don’t grow our own STEM workforce we won’t have one.” He also noted that it is both his vision and passion to ensure all Alabama students see the value of STEM and have access to and availability of these educational resources.

This announcement comes ahead of the first meeting of the Alabama STEM Council on Wednesday. The meeting is open to the public via online access, which can be found here.

Meadows and the leadership of the Alabama Stem Council will reportedly begin with a priority of communicating to students, parents, teachers and other stakeholders the value of a STEM education and the doors it can open in the workforce.

Recognizing that there is not currently sufficient data in the state on what works and where the gaps in STEM education are, the Alabama Stem Council will also undertake a data tracking initiative to provide quantitative analysis to guide decisions and priorities. Identifying programs in Alabama that are already doing an exemplary job with STEM education that can be modeled and scaled up for the entire state will also be a top priority for the organization.

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

34 mins ago

Zeigler: If ALDOT can build an $800M I-20/59-65 interchange in Birmingham with no toll, they can build an I-10 Mobile Bay bridge with no toll

As talk about construction for a new I-10 Mobile Bay bridge heats up, opponents of the infamous 2019 public-private partnership plan developed by the Alabama Department of Transportation are restating their opposition to any proposal that includes tolling.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who led an online campaign against the 2019 plan, is among those still insisting on no tolls.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” in Mobile, Zeigler urged policymakers to look for other funding mechanisms and said if ALDOT could find a way to complete the $800 million upgrades to I-20/59 in downtown Birmingham, it could do so with the I-10 Mobile Bay project, as well.

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“Ever since we were able to block the toll plan, and I might say the very ridiculous toll plan, in August 2019, we knew there was a probability that somebody would come back with another plan for an I-10 bridge over Mobile Bay,” he said. “It’s just inevitable. Since then, actually, one loose group of leaders in Baldwin County came back with a proposal, but it didn’t get very far,  seven or eight months ago. Now we’ve been informed that there are people taking another look at it. Now, if they can put in a new bridge using the existing funds — the gas tax, the increase in the gas tax, the GOMESA money, the leftover BP funds, federal money, infrastructure grants — then let’s see the plan and let’s go forward without a toll.”

“You know, in Birmingham, they just built a new I-59, I-20, I-65 interchange costing about $800 million with no tolls,” Zeigler added. “They can build the I-10 bridge with no tolls, and we’re sticking to that.”

Zeigler acknowledged ALDOT director John Cooper and Gov. Kay Ivey’s handling of the 2019 project had resulted in an erosion of the public’s trust but said he was still open to a proposal, assuming it was a toll-free plan.

“ALDOT and its director, John Cooper, and Governor Ivey lost a lot of credibility on the Gulf Coast with the ridiculous plan,” Zeigler said. “The more we learned about that 2019 toll plan, the worse it got. The more facts we learned, the more we had to block the thing, and we did. I have a loss of trust in ALDOT and John Cooper, and many, many other people do, too. But preliminary work for a new bridge with existing funds can be done without their involvement, and the leadership needs to come locally, not from Montgomery. This idea that Montgomery knows what’s best for the Gulf Coast — that is not a good idea.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

49 mins ago

Delta Dental donates $100,000 to Alabama food banks on Giving Tuesday

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation on Tuesday announced that it is giving a total of $100,000 to two food banks in Alabama.

The announcement comes on this year’s Giving Tuesday, a global campaign that encourages people and organizations to do good and pay it forward. The 2020 version of this annual day takes on increased significance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a release from the foundation noted.

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation partners with local communities to increase access to care, support dental education and fund research that advances the oral health field. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California and its affiliated companies — including Delta Dental Insurance Company, which operates in the Yellowhammer State.

“As a result of the pandemic, food insecurity rates and reliance on food banks are skyrocketing like never before,” stated Kenzie Ferguson, vice president for foundation and corporate social responsibility for Delta Dental of California and its affiliates. “Fighting food insecurity is not only the right thing to do for our communities during these trying times, but it also aligns with our mission to promote oral health.”

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The foundation’s release explained that dental caries, or the disease that causes tooth decay, has been linked to food insecurity – a disruption in food intake or eating patterns due to a lack of resources – in numerous studies.

Alabama food banks receiving grants are as follows:

Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Birmingham – $75,000
Montgomery Area Food Bank – $25,000

Overall foundation support in 2020 totals nearly $15 million nationwide, including nearly $350,000 to nonprofits in Alabama.

RELATED: Alabama Power employees raise money to help people in need

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

1 hour ago

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing to launch second wave of production hiring

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, the joint-venture automotive plant between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., plans to resume the hiring of production positions at its Huntsville assembly facility on Monday.

The company will make its public announcement during a Facebook event on at 3:30pm Thursday.

“When you join the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing team you become a part of something bigger. Our production team member positions are career opportunities on a world-class team of highly-skilled, high-trained coworkers supported by leadership committed to the individual success of each employee on our team,” said Janette Hostettler, vice president of production at MTM.

“We looked forward to launching this next phase of hiring and encourage all interested in joining our team to tune into the Facebook Live event to learn more,” she said.

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MTM’s assembly facility, now under construction, is expected to open next year. Ultimately, the plant will employ up to 4,000 workers.

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, is assisting MTM with the hiring process. The Thursday Facebook event will take place on AIDT’s page.

In August, when MTM announced an additional $830 million investment in the Alabama facility, the company said its employment had reached 600. Initial hiring of the production team began in January 2020.

“The partnership between the State of Alabama and Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has been great not only for our state but also our citizens,” said Ed Castile, head of AIDT and deputy secretary of Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We’re proud to support their hiring and training needs as they move into the next phase of their process and give more Alabamians an opportunity to jump start their manufacturing careers,” Castile added.

The new jobs are direct hire, full-time positions on the MTM production team. Starting wage for production team members is $17 an hour, with a top wage of $23 an hour plus shift premium.

MTM production team members are provided benefits on their first day of employment including paid time off, vehicle discount program, and medical, dental and vision coverage. Employees are also eligible to participate in MTM’s 401(k) with 6% employer match after 60 days.

Interested candidates may submit their application beginning Monday at the company’s website.

(Courtesy of Made In Alabama)