If you do, your bejeebies will be obliterated when you see the one depressing statistic that best describes the economic health of metropolitan Birmingham.
Please note we’re not talking about just the City of Birmingham or Jefferson County. We’re talking about the Birmingham Hoover Metropolitan area—defined by our seven counties: Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, St. Clair, Shelby, and Walker.
So the folks in our suburbs are impacted by this number just as much as our local residents.
What is that statistic?
Job growth is the number that uniquely shows how we’re doing economically as a region. Growing jobs is healthy–losing jobs is scary. And we are losing jobs.
The Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) publishes a list of our key economic metrics to compare metropolitan Birmingham with eleven of our peer cities. Job growth is one of them.
According to the BBA’s most recent Annual Report, our Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area is the only one of the twelve that lost jobs in 2001-10 and continued to lose jobs in 2011 and 2012.
From 2001-2010 Austin saw job growth of 22.9%; Charlotte 18.1%; Nashville 14.4%; and Raleigh 23.9%. Metro Birmingham had a 1.1% job loss from 2001-2010–and a .4% reduction in 2011-12.*
And this hurts everyone in our region–not just Birmingham and Jefferson County.
According to the latest census, 45% of the workers in Blount and St. Clair Counties and 44% of the workers in Shelby County commute to work in Jefferson County.
So, if Birmingham and Jefferson County are losing jobs–so are our neighbors.
Please note that the best performing cities, like Nashville and Charlotte, have consolidated county/city governments while we divide ourselves into separate municipalities and fight amongst ourselves.
Back in 1940, Weldon Cooper in Marvin Whiting’s book, One great City, prophesized:
“If Birmingham’s experience parallels that of other large cities, it will soon find itself losing population to the communities around its fringes with a consequent decline in leadership and resources which eventually will have fateful repercussions in its political life.”
Cooper’s prediction was made almost 75 years ago. How long are we willing to sit around while we lose our businesses, our jobs, and our children?
People say to me, “We don’t want to be like Atlanta”. Trust me—we don’t need to worry about being like Atlanta–we need to worry about staying like Birmingham.
On a recent trip home, Beth, the daughter of one of my best friends, told me, “If you could find a good job for my husband, we’d move back to Birmingham in a minute.”
Well, Beth, I wish I could.
*Annual average labor force U.S. Labor Statistics, updated March 24, 2014
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).