MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama lawmakers are working to get more Alabamians working.
The state has one of the lowest labor force participation rates in the country at 57%, and a new commission of state lawmakers is examining how to improve that number.
“Lord knows we do have a problem in this state,” Rep. Reed Ingram (R-Pike Road) said.
Ingram chairs the new commission formed to study barriers to the workforce and find solutions. The group met for the first time Thursday.
“We’re going to look at everything we can do to make sure we get the benefits and the tools in the toolbox for people to get back into the workforce,” Ingram said.
Ingram said some issues the group will study include childcare needs, lower taxes, keeping college graduates in the state and bringing some retirees back to work.
The emphasis on low labor force participation is a departure from what the state has touted in recent months in terms of low unemployment and job creation.
“I want to emphasize a shift in our approach,” Gov. Kay Ivey said at a job fair Thursday for people with disabilities.
Ivey said the state is now focusing on ensuring people who want to work have the opportunity. She said events like that job fair are a step in the right direction.
“We want to increase our labor force participation, so what better way to do it than events like this,” Ivey said. “So we’ll do more of these.”
The state currently has about 140,000 job openings and nearly 49,000 unemployed workers.
Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington echoed Ivey’s goal, saying in a press conference at the job fair “Let’s get to work.”
Ingram said his goal for the commission is to increase labor force participation in the state by 6%. The group’s next meeting will take place 10:30 a.m. Oct. 30 in room 200 of the statehouse.