By: Dr. Josh Duplantis
We often hear that the unemployment rate has reached pre-pandemic levels and that statement is mostly true. You are only considered unemployed if actively seeking work and according to the Department of Labor, once 26 weeks pass, a job seeker gets put into the classification of "discouraged worker".
Even with the low unemployment numbers, our employment situation, as we all know is different. Why do we see help wanted signs on literally every business that we pass by. Peak labor force for Alabama Workforce Region 07 hit a high in 2019 peaking at 53.4%. In March of 2021 regional participation was at 52.23%. Now, a little over 1% doesn't seem like a big number. With a regional labor force of 335,021 people, that's a significant loss of people participating in work. Combine that with the job growth and post pandemic recovering and the region is short several thousand workforce participants necessary to meet our job demand. Above is a chart of each county in region 7, it's participation in 2019 (pre-pandemic) and its participation now (March 2021).
The same barriers exist now as they did pre-pandemic. Childcare, transportation, substance abuse, and job skills continue to be the four most significant barriers to workforce entry.