Alabama’s unemployment rate doubled between 2008 and 2009, leading to more poverty, more uninsured residents and more economic insecurity for workers weathering the Great Recession, according to The State of Working Alabama 2010, a new Arise Citizens’ Policy Project report released today.
Unemployment growth was swift and intense in Alabama last year, the report finds, with almost a third of the state’s jobless workers unemployed for more than six months. Along with many of the job losses came a loss of employer-provided health insurance benefits. As a result, demand for public insurance programs like Medicaid and ALL Kids exploded. The report credits federal stimulus money for keeping unemployment from climbing higher and for helping Alabama’s public services meet growing needs amid declining revenues.
The Great Recession officially ended in mid-2009, but its effects may linger in Alabama for years, the report finds. Unemployment is falling, but forecasts say it will remain high in 2011 as the nation’s economy grows too slowly to reduce joblessness significantly. Alabama’s median household income is lower than it was in 2000-01, and rising college tuition costs and a regressive tax system continue to pose problems as low- and middle-income workers try to get ahead, the report finds. The state’s poverty rate is higher than it was a decade ago, especially for its youngest residents: Almost one in four Alabama children lived in poverty in 2008-09, and more than half lived in families making less than 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold.
ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister said the report illustrates the many difficulties that Alabama’s new leaders will face next year. But he said the state can act now to lay the groundwork for a brighter future.
“We should be careful to maintain adequate funding for education, health care and other vital public services next year,” Forrister said. “Our state has taken a balanced approach of both spending cuts and new revenues in past recessions, and we should do so again as we emerge from this one. Investing in Alabama today will lead to more opportunities and better-paying jobs tomorrow.”
ACPP publishes The State of Working Alabama annually. The report uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other state and national sources to examine the economic condition of the state’s working families in 2010 along with historical trends. The complete report is available online at www.arisecitizens.org.