Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Alabama unemployment rates at remarkably low levels

  During the late summer, it was revealed that Alabama’s economy set records for the number of people employed along with the lowest unemployment rate in decades. Figures released in August had the state with a record-breaking 3.3% unemployment rate.

  The numbers indicate a continued upward trend with 57,000 more people employed than at the same time a year ago.

  Gov. Kay Ivey said, “The effort we are making to bring jobs and employers to Alabama is working.” She further stated, “We are consistently improving our workforce and preparing Alabama for the future.”

  The entire U.S. economy is on a continued upswing that began with the Trump administration. However, Alabama’s job growth rate has outpaced the national rate for six of the first seven months of 2019.

  Governor Ivey can rightly claim credit for these outstanding figures. She and her chief of staff and right arm, Jo Bonner, have made job growth and economic development their primary focus.

  Five sectors are setting the pace for the current employment increase. These are transportation, equipment manufacturing, motor vehicle manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and computer systems design.

  The counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby, Marshall, Elmore, and Baldwin. Counties with the highest unemployment rates are Wilcox, Greene, and Perry.

  All summer long there was a furor over a toll road in Baldwin and Mobile Counties. The debate raged over a plan by the state to build a toll road for the Interstate 10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project. Not surprisingly, a poll indicated that 77% of registered voters living in Mobile and Baldwin Counties did not support the toll plan for the Interstate 10 passageway.

  This is not a jaw-dropping fact. Who wants to pay $6.00 toll fee each way each day to work? The folks who commute from burgeoning Baldwin County to work in Mobile need a road/bridge. However, the state cannot afford to build the very expensive new road without a toll.

  The Baldwin Countians thought maybe people outside of the coastal area would have sympathy for them and take up their cause. Good luck with that thinking! The rest of the state could not care less. It is a local problem. The good folks in Sand Mountain are concerned about their own roads and bridges. They do not want the people in Baldwin-Mobile taking their road money. Thus the old adage, “All politics is local.”

  Even though all politics is local, we do have a presidential election upcoming. It is here. The race is on. Our presidential preference primary is March 3, 2020. We will not only vote for president that day. There are a good many other races that will be interesting.

  The First and Second Congressional Districts are open seats. Rep. Martha Roby is not running for reelection in the Second, and Rep. Bradley Byrne is leaving his safe seat in the First to run for the U.S. Senate. These are both Republican seats.

  In addition to the presidential and congressional seats, the marquee event in the state will be the race for the U.S. Senate. This is the Republican Senate seat held by Jeff Sessions for 20 years.

  Democrat Doug Jones is currently in the seat. The winner of the Republican Primary in March and runoff in April will ultimately recapture the seat for the GOP. The leading contenders are Bradley Byrne, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, and former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

  President Donald Trump is extremely popular among Alabama Republican voters, and indeed, among all Republican voters nationwide, especially southerners. Even Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection to his Kentucky Senate seat by tying himself to Trump. He is running a campaign labeled the Trump-McConnell 2020 ticket. He is claiming to be the president’s wingman in Washington to his bluegrass constituency.

  Even though the federal races will headline the 2020 ballot in the Heart of Dixie, let me remind you, again, that all politics are local.

  You cannot get any more local than a county commission. Most of the county commission seats in the state are up for election as well as Alabama School Board seats in Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7. Governor Ivey’s proposal to not elect these school board seats but to appoint them will be on the March 3 ballot. Statewide, there are two judicial seats on the Alabama Supreme Court on the ballot, two seats on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Public Service Commission presidency.

  About the author: Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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