No matter what lies ahead for Alabama’s economy, a high school diploma is no longer a ticket for employment. We emphasize this point with students, but we leave underprepared adults in the lurch. And it will require more than just each year’s crop of high school graduates to meet the new economy’s demands. Effective workforce development policies for adults in their most productive years are vital for equipping the current generation of workers with the skills and flexibility to support their families and command a living wage.
The economic recession took longer to crash the party in Alabama than in many other states. But once it did arrive in late 2008, it made its presence known swiftly and severely. Alabama once boasted a far lower unemployment rate than the national average. Now it has one of the highest. Despite a decade of solid growth in the state’s productivity, the shares of Alabamians who live in poverty or lack health insurance have shown no appreciable declines in this decade. And the state’s workers face broader challenges in their efforts to climb the economic ladder, such as soaring college tuition costs and a regressive tax system.
What if this is as good as it gets? That’s a question many Alabama workers may ask themselves in the near future as this year’s national economic slump continues. The state’s economy has been healthy in a number of areas since the business cycle last peaked in 2001. The unemployment level is below the national and regional averages. Alabama has added a net of almost 100,000 jobs since 2001. The labor force is more diverse than it was when the decade began. And the state is still ahead of the national curve for the percentage of children with health insurance converage. But warning signs of a potential downturn abound for many working Alabamians.
From the Tennessee Valley to the Gulf Coast, Alabamians share a strong work ethic and a deep commitment to individual responsibility. They go to work each day, pay their taxes, participate in the lives of their communities, and nurture their children. But for many, the promise that hard work will provide a good living for them and their families remains just that — a promise, unfulfilled. This report looks at the strengths and needs of these families who watch Alabama’s economic growth from a distance. We review the state’s investment and outcomes in workforce development and evaluate how effectively our much-heralded industrial expansion efforts, along with existing state supports and services, are bridging the gap in family self-sufficiency.
With just a small investment in a federally sponsored asset-building strategy known as Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), Alabama could help hundreds of low-income workers break the chains of poverty by saving for education, housing or entrepreneurship.
This fact sheet explains how IDAs work, how they’re funded and how Alabama can move forward with this innovative program.
The rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats in Alabama. The state’s economy has grown in a number of ways since the recession of 2001-02. The unemployment level is notably below the national and regional average, with some areas of the state experiencing what economists would call full employment. Almost 100,000 new jobs have been created since 2002. Median wages for college graduates have risen at a higher rate in Alabama than in the South or the United States since the turn of the century. And the state is still ahead of the national curve for the percentage of children with health insurance. But for many working Alabamians, the news is far from sunshine and rainbows.
ACPP has partnered with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) to assess the economic condition of Alabama’s working families in 2006, against the backdrop of national and historical trends.
Defining poverty is a difficult task. The researcher who developed the poverty threshold called them a measure of “income inadequacy.” That is, they reflect a general agreement about how much is too little to live on, rather than how much is enough.
This fact sheet describes how the government measures poverty and offers an alternative measure called the Self-Sufficiency Standard that better reflects the basic costs of living.