In 2018, Governor Ivey established the Success Plus postsecondary education attainment goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the workforce by 2025.
With labor market conditions nearing full employment in Alabama, meeting the Success Plus goal requires increasing Alabama’s labor force participation rate (LFPR). The LFPR is the percentage of the civilian non-institutionalized population age 16 and older who are employed or actively looking for work. As a result, Governor Ivey set a goal of surpassing the national LFPR by 2025.
With a November 2023 non-seasonally adjusted LFPR of 57.1%, Alabama ranks 47th in the nation (tied with Kentucky and above only Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia). A one-percentage-point increase in Alabama’s LFPR represents approximately 23,000 additional Alabamians participating in the labor force. Increasing Alabama’s LFPR to the national average of 62.8% would add 131,100 Alabamians to the labor force. Alabama’s 78.4 percent prime-age labor force participation rate (25-54) also lags 4.9 percentage points behind the national average of 83.3 percent, which represents a delta of 112,700 prime-age Alabamians who are not working.
Our state will not reach its goals with nearly half of its working-age people on the sidelines. Alabama must, and can, do better, but it will require realignment of Alabama’s public workforce system to make it more effective and efficient. We must address postsecondary attainment and labor force participation together. Economic growth is booming in areas across Alabama with the highest levels of attainment and labor force participation. In the counties with a low LFPR, there is also limited postsecondary attainment and economic growth.
There are more available jobs than there are unemployed Alabamians. Therefore, we must focus on increasing the number of people participating in the labor market and coordinating our workforce programs. We must focus our efforts on increasing the LFPR with the same passion and focused leadership that we have placed in past years on important issues such as literacy and high school completion. Increasing the LFPR requires shared goals, coordination, and shared accountability metrics.
In the next legislative session, it is time to finish the job of aligning our workforce programs to meet the demands of our economy. Alabama must be a leader in all endeavors, with a particular focus on our workforce. We want Alabama to be a model for talent training and development, inspiring other states to aspire to become as good as Alabama.
This report outlines steps that should be taken through executive action and through the legislative and budgetary processes to align Alabama’s workforce system. These recommendations are focused on efficiency and cleaning up the motley mix of programs that are serving far too few of Alabama’s employers and job seekers.
This report was developed with the people of Alabama, and the taxpayers of Alabama, in mind. Achieving government efficiency often “ruffles a few feathers,” but we present this report as both the customers of, and funders of, Alabama’s public workforce system. With that in mind, we offer this report and recommendations for reforming Alabama’s public workforce system.