Experts Assess Labor Force, Consumer Confidence at State of the Economy

Chamber members from a range of industries turned out to hear from economic experts at Chamber in Session: State of the Economy, presented by Raymond James.

The event, held at Embassy Suites November 7, looked at the current health of the local, state, and national economy while providing attendees a future forecast in key areas of growth.

Anoop Mishra, Vice President and Regional Executive, Birmingham Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, provided a Fed perspective on the current economic outlook. While Mishra said there was some uncertainty in the future, and the upcoming election posed a downside risk, he noted unemployment is at a 50-year low, and the consumer is doing well.

"The labor force participation rate has been increasing, which places a downward pressure on the rate," Mishra said. "People have more take-home pay, hourly wages are going up, and overall compensation rates are going up. People are working more, and making more money."

Mishra said inflation is at the target rate of 2 percent, and consumer confidence is strong. While there are no signs of a consumer slowdown, Mishra noted labor availability could be a constraint to growth, and there is some softness in business investment.

Echoing Mishra's concerns on labor availability was Ahmad Ijaz, Executive Director and Director of Economic Forecasting, Center for Business and Economic Research, The University of Alabama.

"Our labor force and population has changed," Ijaz said. "One problem is our aging workforce."

Ijaz told attendees that between 2000 and 2018, Alabamians under 15 years of age decreased -3.2 percent, while those aged 65 and above increased by nearly 43 percent. The problem will only continue to worsen, said Ijaz, who noted that the projected increase of Alabamians above aged 65 will be 62 percent over the span between 2010 and 2030.

Ijaz told attendees that our region is changing as we move more toward service-based employment.

The 2019 Chamber in Session: State of the Economy was presented by Raymond James. The Gold Sponsor for the event was Embassy Suites. Silver Sponsors for the event were Shelton State Community College and the Tuscaloosa County Commission. Bronze Sponsors for the event were BBVA, the City of Northport, and Wells Fargo. Table Sponsors were Adams Beverages; Alabama ONE; BankFirst; Bryant Bank; Chesapeake Consulting, Inc.; City of Northport; Community Service Programs of West Alabama; First South Farm Credit Union; JamisonMoneyFarmer PC; Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc.; Michael McGuire State Farm Insurance; Regions Bank; SmartBank; Synovus; The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences; TTL, Inc.; Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports; University of Alabama System; West Alabama Regional Commission.