Newswire: Alabama Black Belt unemployment rates consistently high

A new study brief issued by the Educational Policy Center of the University of Alabama, showed that the unemployment rate in the Alabama Black Belt Counties was consistently higher than for the state as a whole. This brief was one of a series issued by the Center on conditions in the Black Belt counties.
Chart 1 shows that the Black Belt’s unemployment rate closely parallels that of Alabama, but is often two, three, or even four percentage points higher—and this does not include discouraged workers.
The 18 Alabama counties with the highest unemployment rates were all in the Black Belt. The three counties with the highest unemployment rates—Wilcox, Clarke, and Greene counties, at 6.9 percent, 5.9 percent, and 5.8 percent, respectively—were all in the Black Belt, and had unemployment rates double the statewide rate of 2.7 percent.
While every county in Alabama saw improved unemployment rates in 2019 compared to 2018, Black Belt counties had a very different and higher starting point, as Chart 3 (on the following page) shows. Nationally, Alabama saw the largest percentage decline in its unemployment rate among all fifty states from November 2018 to November 2019 (-1.2 percent compared to -0.4 percent). The Alabama statewide unemployment rate of 2.7 percent rate was tenth lowest in the United States. This sparkling performance has not fully extended to the Black Belt region, however.
So much of the country’s economy—indeed the world’s—is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown measures. Following a period of extended low unemployment across the country, and historically low unemployment in Alabama, unemployment rose to over 14 percent nationally. As Chart 1 showed, there has existed a considerable chasm between the Black Belt and Alabama as a whole in terms of unemployment. Another chart in the report, shows the June 2020 unemployment rates by county. Nine of the 10 counties with the highest rate of unemployment are in the Black Belt, while 17 of the 24 Black Belt counties are above the Alabama average of 8.2 percent. These figures suggest a long recovery ahead for Alabama’s Black Belt, a region that—despite significant growth—was behind the rest of the state going into the pandemic recession.
From Issue Brief No. 45, by Hunter D. Whann, Noel E. Keeney, Stephen G. Katsinas, and Emily Jacobs of the Educational Policy Center at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Newswire: The Black Belt’s population decline explains why Alabama may lose a Congressional seat in 2022

by Stephen G. Katsinas, Noel E. Keeney, Emily Jacobs, and Hunter Whann

The Educational Policy Center at the University of Alabama issued the first of several reports on the Alabama Black Belt this week. The first report was on the impact of the declining population, as measured by the U. S. Census, in the Alabama Black Belt on the State of Alabama.
Will Alabama lose its seventh congressional seat after the 2020 Census? In this issue brief, the first in a series of eight The University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center will publish on demographic, economic, and education issues, challenges, concerns, and options facing the Black Belt, we argue that if our state loses a seat, it will be the direct result of stagnant or declining population in Alabama’s 24 Black Belt counties. The challenges of rural life in Alabama, and indeed rural America, are driving away its most valuable resource: its people. Economics, lower access to information-age broadband and healthcare, as well as the inability of 19th century systems of governance and taxation frozen in Alabama’s antiquated, race-based 1901 Jim Crow state constitution are key forces underlying this decades-long trend.
This is the policy context for the critically important 2020 Census, which cannot be divorced from any discussion of the Black Belt’s population decline. Losing a congressional seat will jeopardize billions in federal investment dollars over the next decade. This is why Alabama policymakers on a bipartisan basis are working tirelessly to insure a full and complete count for the Census.
Chart 2 isolates just the 24 Black Belt counties. It reveals the region lost over 40,000 residents from 1998 to 2018. The decline was from 730,000 in 1998 to less than 690,000 in 2018. Sadly, this trend may continue in for the foreseeable future, as persistent issues such as hospital closures and lack of broadband access drive people away. The sudden requirement for remote learning due to the pandemic exposed crevasses in available broadband services that echo the gulf in electricity access in the 1930s between the rural have-nots and an urban America that had been wired for nearly two generations. Here is link to an interactive map of the counties listed in various Black Belt reports:
The report shows the importance of Greene County residents participating in the 2020 Census to raise the count. You can post your information by calling 844-330-2020 or contacting on your computer, tablet or smartphone.