Job Creation Is Job One for the Alabama Economy
The number one issue facing our state is jobs. Without employment a family is in peril. Without a paycheck everything in life becomes precarious. Work is necessary for living and for well-being, and when someone canít find it, we should all be concerned.
The economic downturn that started three years ago was absolutely a job killer, and Alabama was hit harder than almost any other state. As the Wall Street debacle and housing market crash hit, our unemployment rate shot up from under four percent to well past 11 percent. It was the single largest job loss since the Great Depression, and it affected every county and every community.
There are signs that unemployment is now coming down, and that the economic recovery is finally generating some jobs. The good economic news means little if you still canít find employment, but it is critical to follow these signs because past indicators have shown that they are leading indicators of better employment in the future.
Unemployment is down more than 1.5 percent since the beginning of the year, falling from 11.8 percent to 10.3 percent recently. While a double digit jobless rate is terrible, the trend is that Alabama has started to generate jobs and will continue to do so.
This job creation comes from real economic growth for the state. The University of Alabamaís Center for Business and Economic Research said that the gross state product will grow 2.5 percent this year, up from earlier estimates. That is expected to expand jobs by almost one percent by the end of the year.
The university researchers say that the sentiment of business leaders across the state is improving, and that optimism is a good indicator of better times ahead.
Part of the optimism is based on a recent jump in exports. Goods and products from Alabama sent to other countries jumped 25 percent in the first quarter this year, buoyed by the cost and quality of our products and the economic recovery other nations are experiencing. As long as we can continue to export, we can see growth in critical areas of Alabamaís economy like agriculture and automobiles.
As an example, Hyundai in Montgomery just shattered its monthly production level for the popular Sonata and Santa Fe vehicles it makes in its Alabama plant. For the first time the factory produced more than 30,000 vehicles in a month, and it is now running at what is seen as the plantís capacity.
Hyundaiís auto plant has been so successful that they are building a new electric transformer factory in Montgomery. The factory will create 480 jobs and bring a $90 million investment. Alabama beat out four other Southeastern states for the project.
Huntsville just found out that Raytheon will build a state-of-the-art missile production facility and create an additional 300 jobs. This is on top of the thousands of jobs coming to the area through BRAC, the base realignment effort of the military.
As a legislator, creating and protecting jobs in our area and across the state has been the number one priority. Every job saved in these tough times meant that one more family put food on the table, and the paycheck the family spent would help the state economy as a whole.
In a time when states are laying off up to 300,000 teachers across the country, Alabama was able to keep teachers in the classroom and keep the education budget balanced. Not only was it important to maintain our schools, but also saving more than 10,000 education jobs has a significant impact on our state and local economy.
It looks like it will take some time to dig ourselves out of the hole, but the trends are moving in the right direction. As we land new manufacturing plants, along with seeing our exports and our domestic product grow, we have reason to believe that more jobs will soon follow. Nothing could be more welcome to Alabama families
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Montgomery, AL 36130
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