Alabama's unemployment rate has suddenly started dropping fast - and much faster than its neighboring states - raising the intriguing possibility that the conventional wisdom that illegal immigrants "take jobs that Americans won't do" is wrong, at least when the economy is terrible.
The state's unemployment rate fell 1.2 percentage points in three months - September through November - a much faster improvement than achieved in any of its neighboring states.
Alabama's unemployment rate in November was 8.1 percent, compared to 9.8 percent just three months before, and dropped twice as fast over three months as it did in Tennessee, down 0.6 percent to 9.1 percent, and Florida, where it dropped 0.6 to 10 percent.
Alabama's sudden drop in unemployment also far outstrips neighboring Georgia, where unemployment declined 0.4 percent to 9..9 percent, and in Mississippi, where unemployment dropped a mere tenth of a percent, to 10.5 percent.
On Friday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced the state's unemployment rate continued to plummet in December, to 8.1 percent. While official Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers won't be released until later this week for all of the states, it is clear that something good is happening in Alabama, where unemployment has dropped below the national average.
Some are suggesting that the state's new laws designed to push back against illegal immigration are the reason for the sudden improvement in Alabama's unemployment rate.
In December, Chuck Ellis, a member of the city council in Northern Alabama’s Marshall County, told the Daily Caller that the suddenly-plummeting unemployment rate is "proof that people - American Citizens [and] legal migrants, have suffered at the hands of politicians who choose politics over economics." He pointed to the fact that in his county, population 95,000, with a workforce of 30,000, "there are over 600 people who now have jobs that they didn’t have 6 months ago."
In that same story, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a D.C. -based advocacy group, said that it was "certainly plausible that immigration enforcement - and the subsequent drop in the number of illegals - enabled unemployed Americans to find work." He went on to say this: "Americans with the highest unemployment rates — young workers, less-educated workers, minority workers — are the ones facing the greatest job competition from illegal aliens, and thus would benefit the most from the departure of those illegal aliens."
Of course, correlation isn't causation. It is certainly possible that Alabama's tough new anti-illegal immigration laws had little or nothing to do with Alabama's sudden emergence as a center of job-growth.
But if the new state unemployment numbers released this week show Alabama continuing to outpace its neighbors in reducing its unemployment rate, it will be more and more difficult to make that argument - and easier for lawmakers and candidates who favor a tougher stance on illegal immigration to make the argument that it is a crucial and necessary step in reviving the American economy so that it is producing more jobs for Americans and legal residents.
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