ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington Economic Op-Ed 2023

If you followed state news in 2022, you would have seen dozens of stories about Alabama’s successful economy. Nearly every month we at the Alabama Department of Labor were announcing some sort of economic record. In fact, the amount of positive economic news may have also been a record.

While I am extremely proud of the progress our state has made on the job front, I also know that our gains are the result of a world-class workforce in Alabama and a steady focus on attracting and keeping employers. I’d like to congratulate every state leader, agency, official, and worker who played a role. Governor Ivey and her administration are committed to continuous improvement and economic growth, and we are happy to deliver.

Looking back, it’s worth noting another 2022 milestone: Alabama broke all six major economic records. This is a truly remarkable feat following the economic uncertainty that still plagues this country following the COVID-19 pandemic.

More people than ever before – 2.29 million, to be exact – were in Alabama’s labor force last year. That means that a record number of Alabamians are either working or wanting to work, and they believe that the economy is strong enough for them to find a job. Of those, 97.5 percent were employed – also a new record high! That works out to a record low unemployment rate of 2.5 percent (in March, April, and May 2022, following annual revisions).

Comparatively, Alabama had the lowest jobless rate in the southeast for all 12 months in 2022, further evidence that our state is a wonderful place to live, to work, and to succeed. And nationally, we ranked an impressive 7th lowest unemployment rate with a 2.6 percent annual average, compared to the 3.6 percent for the nation. That’s really quite a feat, and definitely something to be proud of.

Employers in Alabama supported a record high number of jobs, surpassing our previous pre-pandemic record, and surging to more than 2.1 million in November. From January 2022 to December 2022, Alabama gained an amazing 81,100 jobs! And those jobs were backed up by record high wages, as well. Workers in Alabama brought home nearly $68 more per week in 2022 than in 2021. Weekly wages hit a record high of $1,019.66 in October.

Several industries saw record high wages as well. Construction, trade, transportation, and utilities, leisure and hospitality, and other services all experienced significant gains. The leisure and hospitality industry, which as we all know was hit the hardest during the pandemic, continued its historical surge with weekly wages increasing by $56.

Additionally, for the first time since 1997, our state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund moved into the lowest tax schedule, Schedule A, in 2022. This means that employers are paying less unemployment insurance taxes than ever before – equating to a 54 percent tax cut for most employers. Lower taxes give our employers more freedom to hire more people and create more jobs.

Our Career Centers, which now touch all 67 counties in the state, helped more than 90,000 new jobseekers last year, logging nearly a quarter of a million customer visits. Of those that we helped place in a new job, 71 percent were still employed a year later. Our Career Centers offer a variety of free services to both jobseekers and employers alike, and in today’s job market, they are more valuable than ever. Employers who are struggling to find employees need to visit their local Career Center and take advantage of the services. Not only do we offer recruiting assistance, but we have programs that can even help pay new employees’ salaries – up to 50 percent! Jobseekers who are looking to train for new opportunities, earn a degree or certification, or simply need some help updating their résumé should visit too! We can help with tuition assistance, on-the-job training, or apprenticeship programs.

Alabama has rebounded and things are looking great for the future. It’s my fervent hope that we can continue to sustain this amazing progress and make this state an even better place to live and work. Our workforce is truly one of a kind – dedicated and hard-working, resilient and innovative. I applaud all of our workers and employers on a truly remarkable year.

Fitzgerald Washington
Secretary, Alabama Department of Labor


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