Alabama’s unemployment rate continues to drop amid state-wide enforcement of a new immigration law, despite Democratic efforts to block and stigmatize the popular reform.
December’s unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent, down from 8.7 percent in November and 9.8 percent in September.
“In the last three months alone, we’ve seen an unprecedented drop of 1.7 percentage points,” noted Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bentley in a Jan. 20 statement.
“Our rate is once again below the national average, and over 41,000 more Alabamians are employed now than at the beginning of the year… but we still have work to do,” said Bentley.
The drop began after a bipartisan 2011 law toughened the state’s immigration enforcement policies.
The reform prompted many low-skilled illegal immigrants to leave the state, and was slammed by advocates for illegal immigrants, including Tom Perez, the chief of the Justice Department’s civil regulation division.
Many established media outlets have highlighted the departing illegals and controversial portions of the law — which forced schools to verify the immigration status of students, while downplaying the employment gains and the law’s popularity.
Perez and immigration advocates have sued the state to halt enforcement of the apparent employment-boosting measure.
The Democrats’ focus on immigration is largely intended to rally Hispanic voters behind President Barack Obama.
Multiple polls show that Hispanic-American voters believe that jobs and education are their top political issues.
But the polls also show that heated controversies over immigration tend to rally Hispanic support for Democratic candidates.
Democratic politicians and activists try to create controversies over the issue, partly by portraying bipartisan efforts to curb illegal immigration as racist.
For example, numerous Democrats have declared that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s call for immigration enforcement is “extreme.”
Romney “would become the most extreme presidential nominee of our time,” Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch declared in a joint Jan. 12 press conference with fellow Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic National Committee.
Alabama’s unemployment rate is now the 28th lowest in the country. In September the state placed near the bottom of the national list, at number 42.
The state has also added 35,400 new jobs since January 2011.
Still, many counties have very high unemployment rates. For example, the formal unemployment rate in majority-black Wilcox County is 16.3%. It is 13.7 percent in Bullock County, and 13.5 percent in Perry County and Lowndes County.
The unemployment rate in next-door Georgia is 9.7 percent, down from 10.3 percent in September, according to Georgia’s department of labor.
In neighboring Mississippi, the December data has not been released. In November, the unemployment rate was 10.5 percent, slightly down form 10.6 percent in September.
Nationally, the unemployment rate is 8.5 percent. However, that rate only counts people who have look for jobs in the last four weeks. Since January 2009, millions of workers have given up looking for jobs or remain stuck in part-time jobs.