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Alabama PYs 2020-2023 Published Approved

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  • II. Strategic Elements

    The Unified or Combined State Plan must include a Strategic Planning Elements section that analyzes the State’s current economic environment and identifies the State’s overall vision for its workforce development system.  The required elements in this section allow the State to develop data-driven goals for preparing an educated and skilled workforce and to identify successful strategies for aligning workforce development programs to support economic growth.  Unless otherwise noted, all Strategic Planning Elements apply to Combined State Plan partner programs included in the plan as well as to core programs. 

II. a. 1. B. Workforce Analysis

The Unified or Combined State Plan must include an analysis of the current workforce, including individuals with barriers to employment, as defined in section 3 of WIOA4.  This population must include individuals with disabilities among other groupsin the State and across regions identified by the State.  This includes—

[4] Individuals with barriers to employment include displaced homemakers; low-income individuals; Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians; individuals with disabilities, including youth who are individuals with disabilities; older individuals; ex-offenders; homeless individuals, or homeless children and youths; youth who are in or have aged out of the foster care system; individuals who are English language learners, individuals who have low levels of literacy, and individuals facing substantial cultural barriers; farmworkers (as defined at section 167(i) of WIOA and Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 35-14); individuals within 2 years of exhausting lifetime eligibility under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program; single parents (including single pregnant women); and long-term unemployed individuals.

[5] Veterans, unemployed workers, and youth, and others that the State may identify.

  • i. Employment and Unemployment

    Provide an analysis of current employment and unemployment data, including labor force participation rates, and trends in the State.

  • ii. Labor Market Trends

    Provide an analysis of key labor market trends, including across existing industries and occupations.

  • iii. Education and Skill Levels of the Workforce

    Provide an analysis of the educational and skill levels of the workforce.

  • iv. Skill Gaps

    Describe apparent ‘skill gaps’.

Current Narrative:

Alabama was one of the last states in the nation to experience significant drops in unemployment after the recession. A slow recovery and shifts in the state’s economic structure kept unemployment significantly higher than the national average after the economic recovery. While the state’s unemployment started decreasing in 2016, the national average was dropping at a much faster speed. In January 2017, the state’s unemployment rate was nearly 1.5 percent higher than the national average, and, by the end of the year, the state’s unemployment rate was equal to the national unemployment rate. Alabama ended 2017 with 2,081,676 employed and—by the end of 2018 2,112,347 were employed, which was the highest number of people employed in the state since figures have been recorded. During 2018, Alabama’s unemployment closely resembled the national average, with the lowest rate of 3.7 percent in September and November. Unemployment rates for Alabama’s seven regions by the end of 2018 ranged from a low of 3.6 percent in Region 4 to a high of 5.9 percent in Region 7. By the end of 2018, there were no counties in the state with double-digit unemployment rates. Wilcox County, which has traditionally ranked in the Top 5 in the nation for highest unemployment rates, dropped to its lowest of 7.8 percent in November 2018.  By September 2019, only 2 counties had an unemployment rate higher than 5.2 percent, Dallas right at the 5.2 mark and Wilcox at 6.2 percent. An annual average of only 86,490 people were unemployed statewide in 2018. Alabama’s record-breaking labor force trends continued into 2019. Economists in the state projected job growth in 2019. In eight consecutive months in 2019, Alabama’s job growth rate either equaled or surpassed the nation, August’s over-the-year growth was 2.3 percent, while the nation was only 1.4 percent. The seasonally adjusted unemployment number for September 2019 in Alabama was a low 66,919, equaling a 3.0 percent statewide unemployment rate. In addition, more people have entered, or reentered, the civilian labor force with the abundance of opportunities available creating a historical high of 2,261,077. 2019 ended with a 2.7 percent unemployment rate in Alabama.

 Alabama’s economy has improved against nearly every measure under the leadership of the Ivey Administration. The unemployment rate measured 4.7 percent in April 2017, and now measures 2.7 percent (November 2019) – a decrease of 42.6 percent. The number of people in the civilian labor force measured 2,176,593 in April 2017, and now measures 2,265,458 (November 2019) – an increase of 4.1 percent. The number of people counted as employed measured 2,073,495 in April 2017, and now measures 2,203,495 (November 2019) – an increase of 6.3 percent. The number of people counted an unemployed measured 103,098 in April 2017, and now measures 61,963 (November 2019) – a decrease of 39.9 percent. The number of jobs counted in our economy measured 2,016,500 in April 2017, and now measures 2,114,800 (November 2019) – an increase of 4.9 percent. Wages have increased from $800.80 in April 2017 to $863.11 (November 2019) – an increase of 7.8 percent. The labor force participation rate has increased from 56.8 percent in April 2017 to 58.6 percent (November 2019) – an increase of 3.2 percent. The percentage of wage & salary job growth measured 0.7 percent in April 2017, and now measures 2.4 percent (November 2019) – it has more than tripled.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, youth unemployment rates dropped in 2018.  Youth age 16 to 19, experienced an estimated unemployment rate of 12.5 percent in 2018, approximately half of the 2017 rate of 24.4 percent. Labor Force participants between the ages of 20 and 24 also experienced lower unemployment from 2017 to 2018, dropping from 14.6 percent to 6.8 percent. When examining the rates by race and sex, the unemployment rate for African American males was 4.8 percent higher than white males, as it also was for African American females compared to white females. While African American males still showed the highest unemployment rate among demographic groups, the unemployment rate in the among African American males dropped from 12.8 percent in 2017 to 7.4 percent in 2018.

Table: Unemployment Rate by Demographics
 Unemployment Rate (%)
Age 
16 - 19 years12.5
20 - 24 years6.8
25 - 344.7
35 - 443.9
45 - 542.2
55 - 641.7
65 years and over3.6
Race and Hispanic or Latino Origin 
White alone2.8
Black or African American alone6.9
Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity4.6
Source: Alabama Department of Labor, Local Area Unemployment Statistics; Expanded State Employment Status Demographic Data. Note: Data represents preliminary 2018 annual average. 

Alabama’s labor force participation rate fell from 61.4 percent in 2007 to 56 percent in 2017 (one of the five lowest labor force participation rates in the nation. The labor force participation rate is defined as the percentage of civilian noninstitutionalized population age 16 and over who are employed or seeking employment. In May of 2019, data published by BLS indicated that Alabama had the third-lowest labor force participation rate in the nation, at 57.9 percent, behind West Virginia and Mississippi. There have been some improvements in labor force participation, as annual average 2018 showed a 1 percent increase in the percent of the noninstitutionalized population participating in the labor force, 57.4, from 2017. The labor force participation rate increases to 58.6 percent by the end of 2019. While Alabama still has one of the lowest participation rates in the nation, it had the largest increase over the year of all Southeast states. The largest increases in the labor force came from white men, adding approximately 26,000, and women. In addition, around 25,000 youth aged 16-19 entered the labor force over the year. Adult age groups with the largest increases in labor force participation came from age 35-44, with the majority being women, and age 65 and over (most of these are men.) 

While there were many improvements, there were also people who dropped out of the civilian labor force over the year. Approximately 7,000 more African American men left the labor force, increasing the total of nonparticipants to 189,000. Additionally, there were more nonparticipants within the Hispanic population in 2018, with a total of of 46,000. Women dominated this increase in the Hispanic population’s particiation in the civilian labor force. The age groups that experienced the largest decrease in labor force participation over the year were the 25-34 and 45-54 cohorts.  Within the 25-34 cohort, most of the decrease was attributed to African American males. In the 45-54 age cohort, decreases in labor force participation appeared across all demographics, with an estimate of 172,000 not in the labor force in 2018 in the 45-54 age cohort.

In 2018, the measure of labor underutilization in Alabama was 7.3 percent, which was 3.1 percent lower than 2017 and lower than the national rate of 7.7 percent. The measure of labor underutilization includes the unemployed, those employed part-time, and those marginally attached to the labor force. According to the Current Population Survey (CPS), Alabama had an average of 86,800 unemployed residents in 2018. Approximately 51,900 workers were employed part-time for economic reasons, which is referred to as involuntary part-time. These people were either part-time because the businesses they worked for were experiencing poor business conditions or were unable to find full-time employment. People marginally attached to the labor force are those who are not presently working, but would like to work, are available to work, and have looked for work within the last year, but have not searched within the last four weeks. In Alabama, the marginally attached in 2018 was approximately 24,900. The number of discouraged workers in the state, which is a subset of the marginally attached, was around 8,000, which accounts for 32 percent of all marginally attached workers.

Table: Worker Distribution by Age in Alabama for 3rd Quarter 2018.
Age GroupNonagricultural Employment NumberNonagricultural Employment Percent
14-1849,7482.6
19-24217,70211.5
25-34412.05121.8
35-44400,81421.2
45-54395,88021.0
55-64308,62816.3
65+103,6825.5
55 and Over Total412,31021.8
Total, All Ages1,888,507100.0
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Local Employment Dynamics Program. Note: Rounding errors may be present. Nonagricultural employment is by place of work, not residence.  

The latest census figures for 2017 estimate the population in the state age 16 to 19 is 259,380. Over 38,700 of this cohort were not enrolled in school, and nearly 14,800 were not enrolled in school or participating in the labor force. In 2017, there were approximately 67,339 youth aged 14 to 21 employed in the workforce, and 59 percent of them were working in the retail trade and accommodation and food services sectors and were earning average monthly wage of $866. Nearly 4,056 youth worked in manufacturing and were earning an average monthly wage of $1,732. An estimated 4,019 youth were working in health care with an average monthly wage of $1,026. An estimated 4,621 youth were working in administrative and support and waste management services with an average monthly wage of $1,278.

According to the 2017 SSI Annual Statistical Report, Alabama ranks seventh highest in the nation among the states for the percentage of the population who are receiving disability social security benefits (3.4 percent). This is an improvement from the previous year when the state ranked second in the nation. Census estimates from 2017 reveal that approximately 775,390 people in the state have a disability and 39.5 percent were over the age of 65. Nearly 137,700 disabled persons were in the labor force in 2017. Over 21,000 people with a disability were unemployed. In 2017, 57.2 percent of those who were unemployed had a cognitive disability. Approximately 13,048 of the working disabled persons were still below the poverty level, while 9,185, approximately 44 percent, of the unemployed persons with a disbaility were below poverty level. Within the households receiving Supplemntal Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in the past twelve months, 46 percent included one or more persons with a disability.

 

Table: Disabled in the Labor Force
DisabilityEmployedUnemployedNot in Labor Force
Total112,03014,628291,771
Hearing difficulty30,8342,34635,898
Vision difficulty25,9672,46150,923
Cognitive difficulty35,0928,363134,976
Ambulatory difficulty39,9714,998185,445
Self-care difficulty7,5401,93465,668
Independent living difficulty15,8974,838133,099
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-year; Table B18120.   

 

Table: Households and Families Receiving Food Stamps
 Receiving Food Stamps
Households Receiving Food Stamps278,382
Households with one or more people in the household 60 years and over77,986
Households with children under 18 years146,828
Households below poverty level158,060
Households with one or more people with a disability128,224
Household median income ($) in past 12 months16,871
Families Receiving Food Stamps194,742
Families with no workers in past 12 months52,736
Families with 1 worker in past 12 months96,328
Families with 2 or more workers in past 12 months45,678
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-year; Table S2201. 

In 2017, Alabama had the 20th largest veteran population in the country (VA National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics). The state is home to five military bases: Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base located in Montgomery; Anniston Army Depot located in Bynum; Fort Rucker located in Dale and Coffee Counties; Redstone Arsenal located in Madison County; and the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center located in Mobile. In addition, Alabama is home to the fifth-largest Army National Guard force in the nation, with a total force of approximately 13,000. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the veteran population in the state in 2017 was 369,962, which was 9.8 percent of the adult population. Over 43 percent of the state’s veterans were 65 or older. Around 24 percent of the state’s veterans live in Region 1 and 20 percent live in Region 4.

A high percentage of veterans participate in the labor force, with a labor force participation rate of 69.9 percent in 2017. Over 65.0 percent of the veteran population in the state has at least some education beyond high school, with 27 percent holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. While the unemployment rate in 2017 averaged around 5.8 percent, the rate for veterans was 3.8 percent (ACS 2017). There are many veterans who need additional assistance due to disabilities incurred during military service. Nearly 24,866 veterans were below poverty level in 2017 (ACS 2017). In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics estimated that 98,577 veterans in the state were receiving disability compensation.

Table: Veteran Population
 Veterans
Civilian population 18 years and over341,642
Median Income in the Past 12 Months 
Civilian population 18 years and over$37,948
Educational Attainment 
Less than high school graduate23,981
High school graduate (includes equivalency)95,628
Some college or Associate degree126,964
Bachelor's degree or higher91,067
Employment Status 
Labor force participation rate70.0%
Unemployment rate7.4%
Poverty Status 
Income in the past 12 months below poverty level25,403
Disability Status 
With any disability103,132
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-year; Table S2101. 

At 21.8 percent, older workers (age 55 and over) constitute a significant and growing part of total nonagricultural employment. The share of older workers for the WDRs ranged from 20.6 percent for Region 3 to 23.2 percent for Region 6. To meet long term occupational projections for growth and replacement, labor force participation of younger residents must increase; otherwise, older workers may be required to work longer. Alabama continues to lose workers to surrounding states, for the latest data (2017) indicates there was a net out-commute of approximately 41,674 people.The total number of out-commuters in 2017 was nearly 113,000, up over 5,000 from 2016. The data indicates that the largest increase in out-commuters appeared in the under 30 age group. While the largest percentage of these commuters worked in Georgia, there was minimal change over the year. The largest increase in workers from 2016-2017 traveled to Tennessee and Florida.

An additional source of skilled labor exists among the underemployed. The underemployed present a significant pool of labor because they tend to respond to job opportunities that they believe provide (i) higher income, (ii) more benefits, (iii) superior terms and conditions of employment, and (iv) a better skills, training, and experience. The underemployed also create opportunities to upskill entry-level workers as they are likely leave lower-paying jobs for better-paying ones. Underemployment rates for counties, AlabamaWorks regions, and the state were determined from an extensive survey of the state’s workforce. A total of 8,845 complete responses were obtained. About 45 percent (4,022 respondents) were employed, of whom 918 stated that they were underemployed. Among the regions, underemployment ranged from 19.9 percent for North AlabamaWorks to 26.0 percent for East AlabamaWorks. Central Six AlabamaWorks has the most available labor, followed by North AlabamaWorks. The two regions account for about 44 percent of the state’s available labor force. Among the counties, Hale County had the highest rate of underemployment at 41.5 percent and Marshall had the lowest with 10 percent. Twenty-nine counties had underemployment rates above the state’s 22.8 percent average.

Table: Commuting Patterns in Alabama
 Percent of Workers   
Average commute time (one-way)2015201620172018
Less than 20 minutes49.250.148.748.7
20 to 40 minutes28.927.228.328
40 minutes to an hour10.310.310.510.2
More than an hour3.63.74.43.3
Average commute distance (one-way)2015201620172018
Less than 10 miles41.341.940.840.3
10 to 25 miles33.633.232.634.2
25 to 45 miles15.415.215.715.3
More than 45 miles778.67.1
Note: Rounding errors may be present. Source: U.S. Census Bureau; Alabama Department of Labor; and Center for Business and Economic Research, The University of Alabama.    

The most frequently cited reasons for being underemployed were low wages at available jobs, a lack of job opportunities locally, living too remotely, family or personal obligations, property ownership inhibiting mobility, and childcare responsibilities. Non-workers cite retirement, disability or other health concerns, social security limitations, low wages at available jobs, undisclosed reasons, and a lack of job opportunities in their area as reasons for their status. Such workers may become part of the labor force if their barriers to employment are addressed. The statewide underemployment rate was 22.8 percent in 2018. Applying this rate to March 2019 labor force data demonstrates that 491,049 employed Alabama residents were underemployed. B adding the unemployed, a total available labor pool of 574,914 statewide may be determined. The underemployed are 6.9 times more numerous than the unemployed and are a more realistic measure of the available labor pool in the state. Prospective employers must be able to offer the underemployed incentives to induce them to change jobs. Underemployed workers are willing to commute farther and longer for a better job. For a one-way commute, 45.9 percent of the underemployed are prepared to add 20 or more minutes to a one-way commute and 34.6 percent are willing to add 20 or more extra miles for a better job.

Most workers (78.2 percent) are satisfied or completely satisfied with their jobs. Workers are most satisfied with the work that they do and least satisfied with the earnings they receive. Fewer underemployed workers are satisfied with their jobs (59.4 percent). The underemployed are more dissatisfied with their earnings and most satisfied with their work shift. Workers are generally willing to train for a new or better job, with the underemployed being much more willing (66.8 percent versus 55.1 percent). However, the willingness to train is strongly influenced by who pays for the cost of training. Workers typically do not wish to pay for the training and their willingness is highest when the cost is fully borne by the government or employer and lowest when the trainee must pay the full costs. The underemployed workers are more willing to train for the new or better job even if they must bear the full cost.

Extremely limited data are available on opioid and substance misuse within the North AlabamaWorks region. Alabama continues to have one of the highest rates of opioid prescriptions dispensed in the nation, at a rate of 107.2 scripts per 100 residents in 2017, nearly twice the national average of 58.7 scripts per 100 residents. The number of opioid prescriptions per 100 persons in the region as compared to Alabama and the United States shows this is one of the worst contiguous regions in the country for opioid prescriptions. Opioid-related overdose deaths in Alabama have risen every year since 2013, reaching levels more than triple that observed in the mid-2000s. Using the Rural Appalachia Overdose Mapping Tool from NORC for data from 2013-2017, the counties in the region show high overdose mortality rates as compared to Alabama and the United States. As noted in the Alabama Opioid Strategic Response Needs Assessment, the state’s lack of structure and regulatory guidelines for reporting drug overdose deaths has contributed to the underreporting of opioid overdoses and deaths. It is important to note that there are secondary effects of the opioid epidemic across Alabama, including, but not limited to, HIV and viral hepatitis infection attributed to unsterile intravenous drug use. The North AlabamaWorks region includes multiple counties identified to be the most vulnerable to an outbreak of HIV or Hepatitis C within the United States (CDC, 2016).

 According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the veteran population in Alabama in 2017 was 369,962, or 9.8 percent of the adult population, with approximately 24 percent of veterans living in the North AlabamaWorks region. A sixth of Alabama’s veterans sought treatment for substance use in 2016 within VA facilities, within which opioid prescription rates exceed the national average and have increased each year since 2001 (Solomon, 2014). Some research shows that OUD prevalence rates at the county level among veterans in Alabama from 2015 to 2017 were 0.79 percent (SD = 0.16), with hotspot analysis revealing a significant cluster of “high-high” veteran OUD prevalence in Cullman, Marion, and Winston counties (Albright et al., in press). Alabama’s incarceration rate is 59 percent higher than the national average, the third-highest rate in the nation. According to the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Annual Report (2015), drug-related crimes were the leading cause of convictions. The state’s prison system is operating at 200 percent of capacity and is involved in a lawsuit regarding the inadequate provision of mental health care. ADOC estimated that from 75 percent to 80 percent of the offenders in custody have a history of substance abuse (ADOC Annual Report, 2015).

 In December of 2019, data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that Alabama had the third-lowest labor force participation rate in the nation, at 58.6%. According to a study conducted by the Liberty Foundation, where it compared labor force participation rates using 2013 BLS data, out of the 51 states, Alabama ranked second lowest labor force participation for ages 35 to 44, third lowest for ages 45 to 54, and fourth lowest for ages 55 to 64. Between 2014 and 2017, the labor force participation rate for those ages 35 to 44 dropped 0.2 percent, from 78.5% to 78.3%. Upon further investigation, the noninstitutionalized population for that age group dropped nearly 60,000, with 40,000 being women.

Alabama vs. U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate by Year
Annual Labor Force Participation Rate

Alabama’s labor force and economy are among the hardest hit by the opioid crisis.[1] Between1999 and 2015, the volume of prescription opioids per capita in Alabama rose 693 percent, or about 14 percent annually. This rise in opioid use in Alabama was associated with a 2.6 percentage point decline in the state’s labor force participation rate of prime-age workers, slowing annual real gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 1.2 percentage points.

 

Table: Impact of Opioids on Real Economic Growth, 1999-2015 (in 2009 dollars)
GenderReal Output, Cumulative 1999-2015 (in billions)Annual Real GDP Growth Rate, 1999-2015 (in percentage points)
Total-$37.7-1.2
Men-$16.0-0.5
Women-$21.7-0.7
The information in this section is from https://www.americanactionforum.org/project/opioid-state-summary/alabama/.  

The rise in opioid prescriptions from 1999 to 2015 led the labor force participation rate for both prime-age men and women to decline substantially. Opioids lowered the participation rates of prime-age men and women by 2.3 percentage points and 2.9 percentage points, respectively. For perspective, opioids decreased nationwide labor force participation rates of prime-age men and women by 1.4 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points, respectively. The decline in the prime-age male labor force participation rate in Alabama means that in 2015 19,300 men were absent from the labor force due to opioids.

Table: Impact of Opioids on Work Hours, 1999-2015
GenderWork Hours, Cumulative 1999-2015 (in millions)*
Total-646
Men-274
Women-373
*Estimates for each gender may not add to total due to rounding. 

The steeper decline in prime-age female labor force participation means that even more women were absent from the labor force. In 2015, opioids kept 27,000 women in Alabama out of the labor force. Together, the growth in per capita prescription opioids from 1999 to 2015 caused the total prime-age labor force participation rate in Alabama to decline by 2.6 percentage points. That translates to a loss of 46,300 workers as of 2015.

Table: Impact of Opioids on Prime-Age Labor Force Participation, 1999-2015
GenderPrime-Age Labor Force Participation Rate, 1999-2015 (in percentage points)Workers, 2015 (in thousands)
Total-2.646.3
Men-2.3-19.3
Women-2.9-27.0

The nonagricultural employment of Alabama residents in the state averaged about 1.8 million quarterly. The manufacturing sector was the leading employer in Alabama, with 269,709 jobs in the third quarter of 2018. Rounding out the top five industries, by employment, are health care and social assistance, retail trade, accommodation and food services, and educational services. These five industries provided 1,103,478 jobs, which is 58.3 percent of the state total. Manufacturing has historically had a huge impact on the economy of the state, primarily to the tremendous growth in transportation equipment manufacturing. The state is home to four major auto manufacturing plants, a major shipbuilding plant, several aerospace manufacturing plants, including one producing planes in the US for the first time, located in Mobile. Less than 25 years ago, zero automobiles were manufactured in Alabama. Today, our four auto original equipment manufacturers annually produce 1 million vehicles and 1.5 million engines. With the additional of Mazda/Toyota, Alabama will produce 1.3 million vehicles and 1.8 million engines annually. These major plants have led to hundreds of thousands of jobs in parts manufacturing across the state. Automobiles have become Alabama’s number one export. The state ranks second in the United States in vehicle exports, and fifth in the number of vehicles manufactured.  The insurgence of transportation manufacturing in the state has produced a huge demand for highly skilled technical workers. Occupations such as team assemblers, aircraft mechanics, aircraft assemblers, welders, industrial machinery mechanics, computer-controlled machine operators, machinists, and many others have experienced significant increases in employment.  Furthermore, advances in technologies, such as the wide use of robotics for parts assembly, have raised the level of skills required to compete for these jobs.  This facility, as well as the Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) Maritime training facility in Mobile, are providing invaluable training services to manufacturing employers across the state. Health care makes up approximately 13.8 percent of the state’s employment.

Table: Selected High-Demand Occupations (Base Year 2016 and Projected Year 2026)
 Average Annual Job Openings  
OccupationTotalDue to GrowthDue to Separation
Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand6,4703806,090
Team Assemblers5,3307474,585
Customer Service Representatives4,3402104,130
Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers4,0552203,835
Registered Nurses3,2756352,640
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products2,7551902,565
Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers2,2901452,140
Accountants and Auditors1,7351551,580
Maintenance and Repair Workers, General1,7351251,610
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers1,3451601,185
Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators1,3351251,210
Industrial Machinery Mechanics1,2252251,000
Construction Laborers1,215801,135
Medical Assistants*1,055180875
Home Health Aides*960215740
Machinists74570675
Medical Secretaries69595600
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers65580580
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters65060595
Management Analysts59085505
Software Developers, Applications*565180385
Computer User Support Specialists54580460
Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists50545455
Industrial Engineers*500145355
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists42070345
Software Developers, Systems Software36575295
Electrical Engineers36060300
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians*355105250
Phlebotomists*34065270
Aerospace Engineers33560270
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics33575265
Physical Therapist Assistants*32560265
Mechanical Engineers32075245
Computer Systems Analysts29540255
Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic25540215
Nurse Practitioners*23585150
Physical Therapists*18065115
Respiratory Therapists18055125
Industrial Engineering Technicians*14035105
Information Security Analysts*1103575
Note: Occupations are growth- and wages weighted and data are rounded to the nearest 5. Occupations in bold are also high earning   
*Qualify as both high-demand and fast-growing occupations.   
Source: Alabama Department of Labor and Center for Business and Economic Research, The University of Alabama.   

While hospitals have maintained a fairly steady employment level over the last decade, the specialized areas of the health care industry are showing rapid growth. Due to the aging population, demand for home health services and nursing care facilities has grown rapidly. Two of the largest occupations in demand in recent years have become personal care aides and home health aides. Although these are entry-level occupations with low wages, they serve as an entry-level job as part of a healthcare career pathway.  Outpatient surgical procedures have become common due to advances in technology, and this has increased the number of outpatient care facilities or rehabilitation facilities. The huge demand for physical therapists, physical therapists’ assistants, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists is a result of an increased number of people needing assistance to function independently after medical procedures. The huge demand for health care has also created higher patient loads on physicians, which in the last decade has resulted in an increase in medical assistants, physician assistants, and surgical assistants. These professionals are trained to perform basic health care services, such as physicals, minor illnesses, and administer diagnostic tests under the supervision of a physician. This frees the physicians to focus on the more serious medical problems. This is the trend throughout the health care industry. The number of surgeons, physicians, dentists, anesthesiologists cannot alone handle the huge needs from a growing and aging population. This provides huge opportunities for people who are interested in working in the healthcare field and earning a sustainable wage without obtaining advanced degrees. In Alabama, as in most of the states in the nation, specialized healthcare occupations dominate the high demand occupations. Half of the current list of the top forty occupations in highest demand are healthcare occupations, with nine requiring less than a bachelor’s degree for entry into the careers.  Furthermore, nearly half of the top 40 in-demand occupations are healthcare occupations. 

Table: Selected Fast-Growing Occupations (Base Year 2016 and Projected Year 2026)
OccupationEmployment 2016Employment 2026Percent ChangeAnnual Growth (Percent)Average Annual Job Openings
Home Health Aides*5,5907,750393.32960
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians*2,2703,820383.27335
Information Security Analysts*9401,290373.22110
Physician Assistants710970373.1770
Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic610830353.1390
Avionics Technicians560760373.170
Fiberglass Laminators and Fabricators7501,010353.02130
Software Developers, Applications*5,2307,010342.97565
Occupational Therapy Assistants500660312.8285
Physical Therapy Assistants*1,9502,550312.72325
Operations Research Analysts8501,110312.785
Industrial Engineering Technicians*1,0801,410312.7140
Nurse Practitioners*2,7603,600302.69235
Industrial Engineers*4,8506,310302.67500
Personal Care Aides15,87020,570302.633,020
Phlebotomists*2,3903,040272.43340
Medical Assistants*7,3609,180252.231,055
Physical Therapists*2,6203,260242.21180
Molders, Shapers, and Casters, Except Metal and Plastic540670262.1875
Note: Employment data are rounded to the nearest 10 and job opening are rounded to the nearest 5.     
*Qualify as both high-demand and fast-growing occupations.     
Source: Alabama Department of Labor and Center for Business and Economic Research, The University of Alabama     

The current top 40 high demand occupations in Alabama are based on the 2016-2026 occupational employment projections.  All three factors, demand, growth, and wages, are used to determine the occupations in high demand, hot jobs, in the state. Nine of the occupations in high demand in the state are a result of the growing need for healthcare. The top five of these healthcare occupations that are in demand are in nursing and assisting, or aides, most of them requiring a post-secondary certificate or associate degree or higher. The healthcare occupation in the highest demand is medical assistants, which is projected to have an average of 1,055 openings a year in the state through the year 2026.  To enter a position as a medical assistant, applicants need a post-secondary certificate at minimum. Registered nurses are also ranked high, with projected average annual 3,725 openings, and require an associate degree. Due to insurance costs and an increased number of the population needing health care, there are more demands for medical technician and assistant positions.  Occupations such as physical therapist assistants, medical assistants, nursing assistants, dental assistants, and others of this nature are increasing in demand to help physicians with the increased patient loads.  

Nearly a third of the high demand occupations are highly-skilled trade jobs, which typically appear in the construction and manufacturing industries. Four of them—industrial machinery mechanics, engine and other machine assemblers, team assemblers, and computer-controlled machine tool operators—are a direct result of a fast-growing transportation and aerospace manufacturing industries in the state. There is also a high demand for welders and machinists across the state due to the state’s expanding manufacturing industries. The remaining statewide occupations on the high-demand list are IT occupations, engineers, managers, and financial and data analysts. The three engineering occupations are all imperative for the success of the state’s thriving manufacturing sector; industrial engineers, mechanical engineers, and aerospace engineers. Demand for market research analysts is a reflection of an emphasis on making effective and efficient decisions based on data analysis.

Table: Selected High-Earning Occupations (Base Year 2016 and Projected Year 2026)
OccupationEmployment 2016Employment 2026Annual Growth (Percent)Average Annual Job OpeningsMeanAnnualSalary($)
Anesthesiologists6907701.125297,673
OrthodontistsNANA1.185289,736
Surgeons5005601.1420280,329
Internists, General3804100.7615264,865
Physicians and Surgeons, All Other5,7806,2100.72195247,609
Obstetricians and Gynecologists1701901.125244,837
Pediatricians, General3904300.9815228,489
Family and General Practitioners6507301.1725208,397
Chief Executives1,9101,830-0.43125207,087
Dentists, All Other Specialists505000193,052
Dentists, General1,2501,4601.5755181,239
Nurse Anesthetists1,7502,0201.45115166,951
Psychiatrists4204701.1315166,544
Podiatrists1001100.965155,616
Law Teachers, Postsecondary1801900.5415145,865
Architectural and Engineering Managers2,5302,8001.02210139,104
Physicists2302601.2320134,525
Financial Managers5,3206,2701.66515130,980
Petroleum Engineers1301501.4410128,156
Sales Managers2,7902,9900.69260126,629
Health Specialities Teachers, Postsecondary2,8603,8703.07350126,115
Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers12012005124,356
Compensation and Benefits Managers1001100.965124,270
Personal Financial Advisors2,7403,0601.11245124,238
Computer and Information Systems Managers3,3803,7901.15300123,790
Training and Development Managers1601801.1815123,452
Marketing Managers5906400.8255123,432
Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary6206901.0855122,889
Pharmacists5,4005,5500.27245122,026
General and Operations Managers27,84030,5100.922,610120,726
Economics Teachers, Postsecondary1401601.3415118,200
Lawyers6,8607,4000.76350117,637
Aerospace Engineers*4,3404,9601.34335116,002
Nuclear Engineers190180-0.5410114,986
Engineers, All Other3,4303,6000.48240113,700
MathematiciansNANA00112,694
Natural Sciences ManagersNANA0.5715112,584
Physical Scientists, All Other180180015111,301
Purchasing Managers9701,0801.0890109,201
Electronics Engineers, Except Computer2,2802,5100.97170108,233
Computer Hardware Engineers1,4601,6100.98110108,090
Optometrists6007001.5530108,005
Chemical Engineers5906500.9745106,640
Education Administrators, Postsecondary2,3302,5000.71195106,505
Human Resources Managers1,4101,5601.02130105,673
Agricultural Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary2302400.4320104,159
Medical and Health Services Managers3,1703,6601.45310103,656
Software Developers, Systems Software*4,2605,0201.66365103,376
Ship Engineers120120015103,342
Airplane Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers2903000.3425102,932
Note: Employment and salaries data are rounded to the nearest 10; job openings to the nearest 5. The salary data provided are based on the May 2017 release of the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) combined employment and wage file. Estimates for specific occupations may included imputed data.     
*Qualify as both high-earning and high-demand occupations. NA - Not available.     
Source: Center for Business and Economic Research, The University of Alabama and Alabama Department of Labor.     
Table: Selected Fast-Growing Occupations (Base Year 2016 and Projected Year 2026)
OccupationEmployment 2016Employment 2026Percent ChangeAnnual Growth (Percent)Average Annual Job Openings
Home Health Aides*5,5907,750393.32960
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians*2,7703,820383.27355
Information Security Analysts*9401,290373.22110
Physician Assistants710970373.1770
Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic610830353.1390
Avionics Technicians560760373.170
Fiberglass Laminators and Fabricators7501,010353.02130
Software Developers, Applications*5,2307,010342.97565
Occupational Therapy Assistants500660312.8285
Physical Therapist Assistants*1,9502,550312.72325
Operations Research Analysts8501,110312.785
Industrial Engineering Technicians*1,0801,410312.7140
Nurse Practitioners*2,7603,600302.69235
Industrial Engineers*4,8506,310302.67500
Personal Care Aides15,87020,570302.633,020
Phlebotomists2,3903,040272.43340
Medical Assistants*7,3609,180252.231,055
Physical Therapists*2,6203,260242.21180
Molders, Shapers, and Casters, Except Metal and Plastic540670262.1875
Note Employment data are rounded to the nearest 10 and job openings are rounded to the nearest 5.     
*Qualify as both high-demand and fast-growing occupations.     
Source: Alabama Department of Labor and Center for Business and Economic Research, The University of Alabama.     
Table: Selected High-Earning Occupations (Base Year 2016 and Projected Year 2026)
OccupationEmployment 2016Employment 2026Annual Growth (Percent)Average Annual Job OpeningsMeanAnnualSalary($)
Anesthesiologists6907701.125297,673
OrthodontistsNANA1.185289,736
Surgeons5005601.1420280,329
Internists, General3804100.7615264,865
Physicians and Surgeons, All Other5,7806,2100.72195247,609
Obstetricians and Gynecologists1701901.125244,837
Pediatricians, General3904300.9815228,489
Family and General Practitioners6507301.1725208,397
Chief Executives1,9101,830-0.43125207,087
Dentists, All Other Specialists505000193,052
Dentists, General1,2501,4601.5755181,239
Nurse Anesthetists1,7502,0201.45115166,951
Psychiatrists4204701.1315166,544
Podiatrists1001100.965155,616
Law Teachers, Postsecondary1801900.5415145,865
Architectural and Engineering Managers2,5302,8001.02210139,104
Physicists2302601.2320134,525
Financial Managers5,3206,2701.66515130,980
Petroleum Engineers1301501.4410128,156
Sales Managers2,7902,9900.69260126,629
Health Specialities Teachers, Postsecondary2,8603,8703.07350126,115
Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers12012005124,356
Compensation and Benefits Managers1001100.965124,270
Personal Financial Advisors2,7403,0601.11245124,238
Computer and Information Systems Managers3,3803,7901.15300123,790
Training and Development Managers1601801.1815123,452
Marketing Managers5906400.8255123,432
Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary6206901.0855122,889
Pharmacists5,4005,5500.27245122,026
General and Operations Managers27,84030,5100.922,610120,726
Economics Teachers, Postsecondary1401601.3415118,200
Lawyers6,8607,4000.76350117,637
Aerospace Engineers*4,3404,9601.34335116,002
Nuclear Engineers190180-0.5410114,986
Engineers, All Other3,4303,6000.48240113,700
MathematiciansNANA00112,694
Natural Sciences ManagersNANA0.5715112,584
Physical Scientists, All Other180180015111,301
Purchasing Managers9701,0801.0890109,201
Electronics Engineers, Except Computer2,2802,5100.97170108,233
Computer Hardware Engineers1,4601,6100.98110108,090
Optometrists6007001.5530108,005
Chemical Engineers5906500.9745106,640
Education Administrators, Postsecondary2,3302,5000.71195106,505
Human Resources Managers1,4101,5601.02130105,673
Agricultural Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary2302400.4320104,159
Medical and Health Services Managers3,1703,6601.45310103,656
Software Developers, Systems Software*4,2605,0201.66365103,376
Ship Engineers120120015103,342
Airplane Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers2903000.3425102,932
Note: Employment and salaries data are rounded to the nearest 10; job openings to the nearest 5. The salary data provided are based on the May 2017 release of the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) combined employment and wage file. Estimates for specific occupations may included imputed data.     
*Qualify as both high-earning and high-demand occupations. NA - Not available.     
Source: Center for Business and Economic Research, The University of Alabama and Alabama Department of Labor.     

 (iii) Education and Skill Levels of the Workforce 

In 2016, only 32 percent of 2016 jobs required at least some college or postsecondary award or certification to qualify them to enter employment. However, around half the people in jobs that did not require formal training or high school diploma were still required to successfully complete some level of moderate to long-term training to learn the specific duties of the job. When looking at projected employment through 2026, the state is expected to grow 6.9 percent. Analyzing the projected growth by formal training categories, jobs requiring a master’s degree are expected to grow the most at 13.4 percent, which is significantly higher than the state average. Furthermore, all categories of postsecondary education from postsecondary non-degree award all the way through a doctoral or professional degree are expected to grow at a rate higher than the state average. This is the norm throughout the country. Those jobs only requiring a high school diploma or less are projected to grow near 5.7 percent over the same period.  

Looking at projected growth, on-the-job training requirements and jobs requiring internships or residencies are projected to grow faster than the state average, at 7.3 percent. In 2016, the average salary for workers in jobs requiring an associate degree ($51,787) surpassed the state average for all occupations ($43,790). The data also proves that work experience pays more; people holding jobs that required work experience to enter the occupation received higher wagesthan the average wage for all occupations in the state. Occupations requiring at least five years of work experience received over double the salary of the state average.  

In recent years, national attention has been drawn to the skill requirements for jobs. Medium skill jobs have become the focus of Alabama’s workforce development efforts. These are jobs that may not require a degree but do require some training after high school, whether it’s extensive on-the-job training, a certification, license, apprenticeship, or an associate’s degree. Over a third of the jobs in Alabama fall into this category. Furthermore, in ADOL’s top forty high demand occupations for the 2016-2026 projection period, there are more people currently employed in high-demand medium-skill jobs than in high- and low-skilled jobs combined. This means that there will be more growth- and replacement-related openings in medium-skill jobs than in high- and low-skilled jobs combined. Medium skilled high demand jobs alone are projected to create over 25,000 new jobs through 2026. These are the jobs that are important to fill, for these grow faster than average, produce many job openings, and provide a sustainable wage.  

Preliminary figures show that the 2018 high school graduation rate in Alabama was 90%, increasing from 87% in 2016.  While reaching 90% is significant, leaders in higher education and industry are concerned about the graduates who are not college and career ready (CCR).  Graduates are classified as college and career ready in Alabama if they meet at least one of the following standards: 1) Score college ready in at least one subject on the ACT;  2) Score silver level or higher on WorkKeys assessment;  3)  Passing score on an Advanced Placement Exam;  4) Earn a career technical education credential; 5) Earn dual enrollment credit at a college; or 6) acceptance into military service. In 2016, there was over a 20 perncent gap between the percent of high school graduation rate (87 percent) and the college and career readiness rate (66 percent). Over two years, the CCR rate has increased nearly 10 percent, to 75 percent, which has narrowed the gap between CCR rate and graduation rates down to approximately 15 percent. Generally, school systems with lower CCR rates also had lower graduation rates. Systems with the highest gaps tend to appear in rural counties.

Another challenge is the high rate of students are required to take remedial mathematics and/or English classes when entering college. In 2018 over 6,000 public high school graduates who enrolled in college had to take remedial mathematics and/or English (5,000 had to take remedial mathematics). 2017 data indicates that in 6 counties, all located in South Alabama, over 50% of the students enrolled in college had to take remedial classes: Barbour 69 percent, Butler 61 percent, Wilcox 57 percent, Bullock 55 percent, Crenshaw 53 percent, and Conecuh 51 percent. Data shows an even larger disparity when examining various subpopulations. During the 2017-2018 school year, only 22.5 percent of African American students in 11th grade reached level 3 or 4 (out of 4) in mathematics on the statewide summative assessment. The high percentage of Alabama students required to take remedial classes beyond high school intensifies the gaps in decision making and problem-solving skills. Alabamians who are deficient in the basic mathematics and English skills will be less likely to be able to apply these skills in the workplace.  

(iv) Skill Gaps
With unemployment rates at a historical low, workforce skills gaps become more apparent. In 2018, the Alabama Workforce Council initiated a study on the state’s postsecondary educational attainment level to determine a strategy for increasing the number of skilled workers in the labor force. Research found that in 2017 Alabama’s postsecondary education attainment rate for individuals age 25-64 was 43 percent. Employment projections through 2025 indicate that the attainment level for all workers needs to be at 51 percent to labor market demands. Another challenge the state faces is many experienced workers who will soon retire out of the workforce.  There are currently over 100,000 workers 65 and older. While some of these may be just working part time to supplement retirement benefits, a majority have not retired yet. Slightly over 300,000 workers are between ages 55 and 64. Furthermore, many young people, who obtain advanced degrees in Alabama, leave the state for better opportunities and higher wages. The state must develop strategies to increase the labor force participation rate and keep Alabama’s best and brightest in the state.

Since 2015, all 12th graders in Alabama’s public high schools are given the WorkKeys assessment, which measures skills proficiency against common workplace skills. The assessment consists of 3 tests; Applied Mathematics, Graphic Literacy, and Workplace Documents. Students receive either bronze, silver, gold or platinum level based on their scores. A bronze certificate indicates that the student should be ready for 16 percent of jobs, while the highest certificate, platinum, signifies that the student has demonstrated applied skills for 96 percent of the occupations in the ACT database.  In Alabama, students earning a silver, gold, or platinum certificate are deemed as workforce ready, which signifies that they are prepared for at least 71 percent of jobs. Since 2015, Alabama’s 12th graders have shown a slow but steady increase in WorkKeys scores, with 59 percent deemed workforce ready in 2015 and 64 percent in 2018. Students in 15 of the state’s 67 counties had workforce readiness below rates below 50 percent and five had rates below 30 percent: Greene, Wilcox, Perry, Bullock, and Sumter.  The lowest scores were apparent in the most rural counties in the state. A statewide examination of workforce readiness by demographic subgroups clearly shows disparity in workforce readiness among groups with barriers to successful employment. Less than 50 percent of homeless students, migrant students, African Americans, and students in foster care scored as workforce ready on the WorkKeys assessment.
 

Percent Workforce Ready through WorkKeys by Subgroup 2018
Percent Workforce Ready through WorkKeys by Subgroup, 2018

Using the O*NET database, skills were matched to three significant occupational categories from the 2016-2026 projections: high demand, fast growing, and high wage. The table below displays the percentage of the respective occupations in each category where the skill is classified as a primary skill, which is defined as one of the ten skills with the highest importance scores according to O*NET. Basic skills are required across all occupations as the scores show. The biggest similarity between these three different sets of occupations is all three totals listed the same basic skill with the highest score: critical thinking. Generally, the remaining five skills categories displayed some significant differences across these occupational lists. The high wage occupations had much higher scores in complex problem solving as well as judgement and decision making. Technical skills scores appeared notably higher across the high demand and fast-growing occupations, as opposed to those in high wage occupations all below a score of eight. Another interesting finding is that the high demand and fast-growing occupations had higher scores in time management than the high-wage occupations. These are important indications of skill demands in the coming years. The occupations in greatest demand are require significant technical and time management skills, while the highest wage occupations in the state require more problem solving and decision making.

Table: Percentage of Selected Occupations for Which Skill is Primary
 Selected High-Demand OccupationsSelected Fast-Growing OccupationsSelected High-Earning Occupations
Basic Skills   
Active Learning384756
Active Listening738488
Critical Thinking808990
Learning Strategies3016
Mathematics101118
Monitoring587956
Reading Comprehension737956
Science8534
Speaking688486
Writing333754
Complex Problem Solving Skills   
Complex Problem Solving505870
Resource Management Skills   
Management of Financial Resources002
Mangement of Material Resources000
Management of Personnel Resources0012
Time Management253210
Social Skills   
Coordination383226
Instructing102116
Negotiation3010
Persuasion8510
Service Orientation284212
Social Perceptiveness384740
Systems Skills   
Judgment and Decision Making406880
Systems Analysis10166
Systems Evaluation10162
Technical Skills   
Equipment Maintenance800
Installation000
Operation and Control23114
Operation Monitoring23214
Operations Analysis1058
Programming3110
Quality Control Analysis13160
Repairing10112
Technology000
Troubleshooting13112
Note: Rounding errors may be present.   
Source: O*NET Online and Center for Business and Economic Research, The University of Alabama.   

 

[1] The information in this section is from https://www.americanactionforum.org/project/opioid-state-summary/alabama/.