2024 State Progress Reports Alabama

Publication April 2024

Workforce
Alabama

Workforce Prep
  • Helping adults earn a postsecondary certificate or degree is vital to preparing the SREB region’s workforce for the future.
  • The percentage of working-age adults with at least some postsecondary education increased over the last decade.
  • The overall employment rate increased across most SREB states at all education levels.
  • By 2030, every SREB state will have more dependent-age individuals than working age adults.
  • Adults with higher credentials are less likely than their peers with less than a high school education to earn wages below the poverty threshold.

Educational Attainment 

Helping adults earn a postsecondary certificate or degree to prepare for employment is imperative for states.Rapid advancements in automation and artificial intelligence will increasingly displace adults with low levels of education, transforming some positions while eliminating others. Better-paying careers in the coming years will require students to earn a certificate or degree after high school.

In the SREB region, the percentage of working-age adults with at least some postsecondary education increased 7.6 points between 2012 and 2022. But across the region in 2022, 38% of working-age adults still had a high school diploma or less.

Job Share by Education Level

The share of jobs held by adults with a high school diploma or less in the SREB region between 2012 and 2022 decreased by 3.0 points, while the share held by adults with a bachelor’s degree or more increased by 6.4 points.

Employment Rates by Education Level

Despite fewer low-skilled adults in the workforce in 2022 than in 2012, there was an overall employment rate increase across most states at all education levels over the decade. In fact, employment rates for adults with high school credentials increased in all SREB states over the 10-year period, by 3.5 points (See the chart below for state data). In all 16 SREB states, adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher were employed at greater rates in 2022 compared to 2012.

These shifts point to a dire situation for low-skilled adults — those with a high school diploma or less — who are most vulnerable to technological advancement and economic downturns.

Working-Age Adults vs. Dependent Population

Without additional education and training, some 18 million SREB adults and their children could be unemployable by 2030. Helping adults earn credentials beyond high school will be critical for 25- to 44-year-olds, who are early- or mid-career and will face job changes.

Technological progress and low educational attainment in the workforce are not the only challenges facing states. By 2030, every SREB state will have more dependent-age individuals than working age adults. Many adults in the 25-64 age range will either be unemployed or out of the labor force by 2030, so the gap between working adults and dependents will likely be higher than conveyed.

Percentage of Adults in Poverty by Attainment

Between 2012 and 2022, poverty rates for adults with any postsecondary education decreased in six SREB states. For adults with a high school diploma or less, poverty rates decreased in nine SREB states.

Earnings by Education Level

Adults with higher credentials are less likely than their peers with less than a high school education to earn wages below the poverty threshold — $13,590 for an individual with $4,720 for each additional person in 2022. In the median SREB state, adults with some college or higher earned $20,645 more than those with a high school diploma or less.

With the disruption of the pandemic, along with technological advancement shifts, SREB states are facing considerable challenges in meeting workforce needs.

The growing dependent population, rising poverty rates and gaps between attainment and job share seen in 2019 pre-pandemic data will be exacerbated. With millions displaced and fewer high school graduates attending college, training for future job openings may become a necessity for 2030.

With fewer people attending and completing college, there are now millions displaced in the workforce pipeline who might need reskilling for future positions. States that coordinate thoughtful partnerships and strategic investments to attain degrees or skills will strengthen a thriving workforce in the future.