Ford: The focus should be on jobs

Published 11:00 pm Monday, July 9, 2012

For four years, our country and our state have struggled to recover from what economists are calling “The Great Recession.” It is no surprise that all the public opinion polls show the number one issue on voters’ minds is – by far – jobs and the economy.

Republican leaders in Montgomery have been claiming that Alabama is recovering and creating jobs. They point to the state’s declining unemployment rate as proof. But Alabama has lost more than 8,600 jobs since January, while at the same time our unemployment rate dropped.

You may be wondering how can the state’s unemployment rate drop if we are losing jobs instead of creating them?

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The Birmingham News recently ran an article that explained that Alabama’s drop in unemployment has more to do with people dropping out of the work force and no longer being including in the statistic than it does with people getting jobs. The unemployment rate only counts people of working age who are actively employed or looking for work. Anyone who has not actively looked for work in more than four weeks is not counted.

This means that people who want to work but have given up because there are no jobs to be had are no longer counted as unemployed; and that skews the statistic.

The unemployment rate also does not distinguish between those who are full-time employees and those who are part-time. So the numbers do not indicate if the jobs that are created are good jobs that pay a livable wage or minimum wage jobs that cannot support the average family.

Even having a good education is not enough to guarantee a job anymore. In April, the Associated Press reported that one in two college students is either unemployed or underemployed.

Both our federal and state leaders are to blame for our lack of progress. Neither the leadership in Washington nor the leadership in Montgomery have been able to deliver on their campaign promises to bring us out of this recession.

But instead of playing the blame game, our leadership in Washington and Montgomery needs to focus on what we can do to create jobs. Job creation must be our priority when the legislature returns to Montgomery next year.

We must focus on how we can create and expand small business while continuing to support existing business and industry. We should consider incentives plans to recruit new business and to help existing businesses expand.

But the heart of our recovery must focus on boosting consumer and employer confidence. The Alabama Business Confidence Index, released by the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, reported that employers are hesitant to hire new workers because they are uncertain about the national and global economies.

This is an election year, and it is easy to get caught up in the blame game. But we deserve more than finger pointing. Our leadership in Washington and Montgomery needs to focus on getting our state and our country back on track.

State Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gasden

Minority Leader of the House.