Ask most people and they will tell you Alabama is still in a recession. People are worried, and despite what we may hear on the national news, it certainly doesn’t feel like we’re making progress here.
A recent report confirms what we have all been feeling.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Alabama economy was one of the worst performers in the nation last year. Most of the nation saw growth, but our economy shrank with the Alabama gross domestic product dropping by just under one percent. This puts Alabama in front of only Mississippi and Wyoming for the worst economic performance.
Until last year, Alabama was handling the recession just as well as any other state in the country. But rather than lead us back to prosperity, the leadership in Montgomery led us into another recession.
Job growth has been a disappointment in Alabama over the last two years. Though some state leaders have pointed to the drop in unemployment as proof that the state is turning around, what we now know is that the drop in unemployment has more to do with people dropping out of the workforce and no longer being counted in the statistics than it does with actual jobs being created.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alabama’s labor force shrank by 60,545 workers between March of 2011 and March of 2012. And there is no way to tell that the jobs that have been created are good paying jobs that can support a typical Alabama family.
But the job market is not the only area that our state has suffered in over the past two years.
Since the downturn began, Alabama schools have lost thousands of educators. But instead of working to rehire teachers and restore budget cuts, the leadership in Montgomery has continued to preside over more reductions in education funding.
Education jobs are critical to our economy. Teachers make up a significant portion of middle class jobs in communities across the state. Eliminating these professional positions radiates, hurting local businesses that rely on educators as customers.
A strong education system is also the basis for long-term economic growth. The better educated our young people are, the better jobs and the higher earning they will have. The quality of local schools is also a factor for many businesses when they chose where to locate a new plant or factory.
While our problems are in part a result of the national economic downturn, our state has suffered more than others because of a lack of leadership. We can get back on track. We can get our economy growing again and adequately invest in our children’s education. But to do that, we are going to need strong leadership. So far, that leadership has been missing in Montgomery.