This number will scare the bejeebies out of you

Do you have bejeebies?

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

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter.  There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

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).

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5 thoughts on “This number will scare the bejeebies out of you”

  1. Yes!  In my opinion, employment (or lack thereof) is at the crux of the matter.  J-O-B-S is my four letter word when I think of Birmingham.  It’s the reason I left, and although I enjoy living in Charlotte, I miss Birmingham terribly.  I too would move back in a heartbeat if jobs were easier to come by.  I am making that transition from my mid to late 20’s and opportunities are clearly limited in terms of employment for people my age.  It’s wonderful that Birmingham has the new breweries, downtown lofts, the Barons, and world class restaurants.  However, how is one my age expected to pay for all of that with an unfavorable job outlook?

    1. Durham, there is no doubt that our dicey national economomy affects everyone, but of all the 12 benchmark cities included in BBA report, metroplitan Birmingham was the only one to have job loss for all periods. Always great to hear from you.

  2. *I find it interesting that this discussion actually started back in 1940, as noted in Marvin Whitings book. It really demonstrates how daunting the problem is. The continuing issue is that it is too big of a problem to solve with one answer, at one time.

    To have a collective decision to merge all of the metropolitan governments together, at one time, is too big, too risky, and, therefore, not likely to happen. It is like all of our politicians saying they are going to Washington to repeal Obamacare. It’s too big of a decision, too big of a risk. The more likely successful approach is to tackle these big problems with incremental successes.

    We have to prove to ourselves that our government representatives can actually work together. That, collectively, they can develop a vision of the future on critical issues, develop a plan to address those, and govern, collectively to implement the plan. I wonder if the Birmingham Water Works Board is a good place to start? Can we create a team of professionals to work together, across borders, to make hard and important decisions,  for the benefit of all?

    We might already be doing this in other areas. If so, let’s talk about them. Let’s demonstrate that we can be successful working together and highlight for all to see the benefits of doing so.

    Being an Auburn graduate, I have always been faced with how to concur one big task familiar to us all. Eating an elephant. You just have to do it one bite at a time. Blocking and tackling every day. Developing strategies that allow you to do things better tomorrow than you did today.

    We should challenge ourselves to seek out opportunities to demonstrate to our collective citizens that we can, and maybe are, doing this. Momentum always grows through success. 

    1. Steven, I agree with you 100%. We need to take this effort one step at a time. Our first step could be to fix Jefferson County. Jefferson County doesn not have three branches of government–no executive branch. That means there is no balance of power and built in controls. That’s why we have so many county commissioners in jail. Then we could go move onto the next step.

      Most everyone thinks that some kind of government consolidation would be good, but just like you, they feel it would be impossible. So your plan of a little at a time makes a lot of sense.

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