Fox News and The Daily Caller have promoted the idea that unemployment rates are dropping in Alabama because of the state's new immigration law. In fact, the state's governor -- who supports the law -- and economists say there's no definitive evidence about the law's effects on unemployment.
AL Unemployment Drop Presented on Fox As "Evidence" Immigration Law Is Working
Fox's Trace Gallagher: Faster Unemployment Drop In AL Is "Evidence" That Immigration Law Is Having An Effect. From Fox News' America Live:
GALLAGHER: So the law passed in June, Megyn. We really kind of started tracking the unemployment numbers in Alabama in the fall, in September. And sure enough, the unemployment numbers were coming down, but then again, so were the unemployment numbers going down in the surrounding states, so there really wasn't enough evidence to pinpoint the Alabama law as being a contributing factor.
But now you look at these numbers four months later, and it really is significant. You have Alabama that was at 9.8 percent in September all the way down to 8.1 percent, a 1.7 percent decline. And you look at the surrounding states, they too have gone down but not nearly as significantly. [Fox News, America Live, 1/23/12]
Lou Dobbs: AL Unemployment Rate Takes "Another Huge Drop" After State Enacted "Tough New Anti-Illegal Immigration Law." From Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: Alabama's unemployment rate has taken another huge drop. The unemployment rate in Alabama now stands at 8.1 percent, down from a whopping 10 percent back in July. The decline in unemployment began after Alabama enacted a tough new anti-illegal immigration law last year. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 1/23/12]
Daily Caller Has Repeatedly Promoted Link Between Immigration Law, Unemployment Drop
Daily Caller In November: Unemployment Dropped "The First Full Month That The Reform Was In Force." From a November 21 Daily Caller article:
Unemployment rates have fallen in Alabama amid new legal pressure on companies to comply with a popular immigration reform law.
September was the first full month that the reform was in force, and the unemployment rate fell from 9.8 percent in September to 9.3 percent in October, according to a Nov. 18 report from the state government.
The new unemployment data is muddied, however, by routine changes in the unemployment situation. For example, state and federal jobless benefits expire and prompt residents to take jobs they otherwise would not have taken.
But "the fact the unemployment rate is down all over state is a positive sign to me that the immigration bill is doing what it was designed to do, and that is put Alabamians back to work," Matt Arnold, Marshall County's economic development chief, told local newspaper The Sand Mountain Reporter. [The Daily Caller, 11/21/11]
Daily Caller In December: "Alabama Jobless Rate Falls Amid Immigration Reform." From a December 18 Daily Caller article headlined "Alabama jobless rate falls amid immigration reform":
Alabama's unemployment rate fell at a record pace in November amid stepped-up efforts by President Barack Obama's deputies to frustrate enforcement of the state's popular new immigration reform.
The state's unemployment rate fell 0.6 percent in November to 8.7 percent, according to new state reports, partly because the state's employers opened up jobs to Americans after shedding illegal immigrants.
The unemployment rate is far below October's rate of 9.3 percent and September's rate of 9.8 percent
The state's new immigration reform gets much of the credit from local boosters, although stepped-up Christmas hiring likely played some role. However, Alabama reduced its unemployment much more than the adjacent states of Mississippi and Georgia. [The Daily Caller, 12/18/11]
Daily Caller In January: "Alabama's Immigration Reform Again Cuts Unemployment." From a January 20 Daily Caller article headlined "Alabama's immigration reform again cuts unemployment":
Alabama's unemployment rate continues to drop amid state-wide enforcement of a new immigration law, despite Democratic efforts to block and stigmatize the popular reform.
December's unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent, down from 8.7 percent in November and 9.8 percent in September.
Many established media outlets have highlighted the departing illegals and controversial portions of the law -- which forced schools to verify the immigration status of students, while downplaying the employment gains and the law's popularity. [The Daily Caller, 1/20/12]
AL Governor, Employment Chief Say There's No Data To Prove Any Effect Of Law On Unemployment Rate
AP: State Economic Official And Gov. Bentley "Said There Is No Data To Prove The Law Has Or Has Not Had An Effect" On Unemployment. From the Associated Press:
State Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said Alabama is getting close to the national average of 8.6 percent and is tied for 33rd among the states. Alabama used to be several spots lower.
Surtees attributes the improvement, in part, to Alabama's auto plants and suppliers hiring workers and returning to full production schedules. "The automotive industry is coming out of some tough times," he said Wednesday.
Some proponents of Alabama's tough immigration law are crediting the law with helping, particularly in counties with large Hispanic populations.
Athens brick mason Carlos Franklin told WAFF-TV that his business has picked up since the law took effect in late September. "We've been getting calls from different people that are scared of using illegals. And that's been putting us back to work," Franklin said.
Surtees and Gov. Robert Bentley said there is no data to prove the law has or has not had an effect.
"We just need to be excited about the drop in unemployment rates," Bentley said. [Associated Press, 12/22/11]
Bentley Opposes Repeal Of AL Immigration Law. From a statement from Bentley's office:
Governor Robert Bentley and Alabama's legislative leadership, House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) and Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R-Anniston), today announced their joint commitment to make Alabama's new immigration law the most effective in the nation.
The essence of the law will not change, according to Governor Bentley. But the state leaders pledged that revisions to the law will be offered for consideration early in the next Legislative Session so that the law works, it can be enforced and it reflects the hospitable nature of Alabamians.
"We aren't going to repeal Alabama's illegal immigration law," said Governor Bentley. "Speaker Hubbard, President Pro Tempore Marsh and I are in total agreement on that point. As I said in my campaign for Governor, Alabama needs an effective illegal immigration law because the federal government has failed in its duties to enforce the law. The Legislature responded to that need by passing a tough immigration law and I signed it. In the time since portions of the law went into effect, I have had a number of productive conversations with legislative leadership about the new law. We recognize that changes are needed to ensure that Alabama has not only the nation's most effective law, but one that is fair and just, promotes economic growth, preserves jobs for those in Alabama legally, and can be enforced effectively and without prejudice. At the same time, we are in complete agreement that we will not compromise our ability to make sure that everyone who lives and works in our state does so legally. There is nothing unkind, unjust or unwarranted about asking everyone in Alabama to obey the law." [Alabama Governor's Office, 12/9/11]
Economists Discount Effect Of Immigration Law On Unemployment
U. of Alabama Economist Ijaz: October Rate Drop Was "Mostly Because Of Seasonal Hiring And Fewer Workers In The Labor Force." From The Birmingham News:
Figures from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations show that the state created 9,700 jobs in October. Most of the gains were in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, the government sector, and the professional and business services sector.
Ahmad Ijaz, a University of Alabama economist, said he believes it is a stretch to credit the immigration law for Alabama's declining unemployment numbers. He said it is too soon to tell whether the law is actually creating jobs for state residents.
"The decline in unemployment is mostly because of seasonal hiring and fewer workers in the labor force," he said. [The Birmingham News, 11/18/11]
Auburn Economics Professor Deravi: Decline In Labor Force Drove December's Drop. From the Mobile Press-Register:
The figures, released Friday by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, represent good news, said Keivan Deravi, an economics professor at Auburn University Montgomery. But optimism over the employment figures should be guarded, he said.
The unemployment rate can fall for two reasons -- either more people get jobs, or fewer people are actively looking for work. It was the latter reason that drove unemployment rates down throughout Alabama in December, he said.
Deravi said he does not think the falling labor force has anything to do with a new state law that went into effect last year, making it more difficult to employ illegal immigrants. The data is compiled by a telephone survey, he said, and "how many illegal immigrants do you think are in the database?"
A more likely explanation is that people who have been out of work for a long period of time are discouraged with the job market and have given up -- either by going back to school or retiring early. [Mobile Press-Register, 1/20/12]
Deravi: If Immigration Law Is Reducing Unemployment, "I Will Tear Up My PhD." From the Montgomery Advertiser:
"We've heard anecdotal evidence from all corners of the state about how more Alabama citizens are being hired in jobs formerly held by illegal immigrants, but the statewide and county-specific data released (Friday) is probably the best statistical proof we've seen to indicate this is happening," Rep. Mickey Hammon, who sponsored the immigration bill, said in a statement.
But Auburn Montgomery economist Keivan Deravi said there was no connection.
"It has nothing to do with the immigration law," Deravi said. "If it does, I will tear up my PhD."
He said there are two reasons the unemployment numbers were down: More jobs were created and some people stopped looking for work.
"A large number of people dropped out of the job market, they gave up," he said. [Montgomery Advertiser, 11/19/11, via Nexis]