Birmingham region hits pre-recession jobs peak

The Birmingham region’s workforce grew 2.4 percent, year-over-year, to reach 545,900 in April, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That growth ranked Birmingham third among its 14 peer metros in April, only behind Nashville (3.9 percent) and Charlotte (3.1 percent) and tied with Huntsville (2.4 percent). Employment in the region also grew year-over-year in May by 1.8 percent, ranking it No. 7 among its peers for year-over-year percentage growth.

Now, with a regional workforce of 545,900 workers and 547,400 jobs, Birmingham has fully emerged from the recession surpassing its pre-recession peak of 543,000 jobs in December 2007.

“We finally emerged from the recession in the first half of the year, climbing above the pre-recession peak of 543,000 jobs in December 2007,” said Fred McCallum, interim CEO for the Birmingham Business Alliance. “Since June 2011, the Birmingham region has experienced positive year-over-year net employment growth. While good, we need to find ways to accelerate the speed of growth relative to our peers, like Charlotte, which saw the highest job growth in May at 2.5 percent.”

McCallum pointed to a number of current initiatives the BBA is working on to accelerate the region’s growth, including:

  • The recent launch of the Birmingham BizHub, an interactive website developed to help entrepreneurs and small business owners navigate and understand local resources.

  • A recent bioscience trade mission trip to Ireland, from which the BBA team will formalize relationships and partnerships with companies and entities they met during the mission.

  • The Magic City Summer internship program, a talent attraction initiative that has enrolled more than 200 interns working in Birmingham this summer, connecting them to Birmingham’s culture, community and influencers.

  • The recent passage of pro-economic development legislation, like the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act, which will aid in recruitment of tech companies and enhance incentives to increase job growth in rural counties, and the Alabama Innovation Act, which creates a research and development enhancement grant program for eligible entities engaging in qualified research within the state.

  • The Building (it) Together workforce development initiative, led by BBA and Central Six AlabamaWorks, the implementation of which will focus on career awareness, talent attraction and upskilling and reskilling workers.

Existing companies in the Birmingham region have announced 569 jobs and over $324.9 million in capital investments year-to-date, McCallum said. For business expansions, the first half of 2019 has been strong, with 14 new expansion projects identified and opened.

Several major projects announced in 2018 are completed and have begun hiring. Amazon is finishing its $325 million distribution center in Bessemer, and DC BLOX opened its data center campus in Birmingham recently, which has the potential for a $785 million investment over the next 10 years. Several of these projects have been recognized nationally for their impact and join other strong accolades for the region that focus on job availability and affordability.