MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The latest jobs report from the Alabama Department of Labor shows in January the state at 3.1% unemployment, nearing the pre-pandemic record low of 2.6%.

But some industries are still struggling to hire.

Alabama Trucking Association President Mark Colson says there are at least 3,000 to 4,000 jobs open for truck drivers in Alabama.

“Even before the pandemic, we were facing a worker shortage, I would call it a crisis. The pandemic exacerbated that,” Colson said.

Colson says without drivers, supply chain disruptions are here to stay.

“The cost of goods go up, we see inflationary prices, things take a little longer,” Colson said.

Although the trucking industry needs employees, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped significantly since the pandemic began.

At its highest in spring 2020, about 13% of Alabamians were out of work. Now at 3.1%, Alabama is just half a percent away from its record low.

“Really it’s been a very impressive comeback from the pandemic and certainly I hope we can continue to be very progressive to that point where we can actually see those numbers below three percent,” Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) said.

Sen. Allen says strengthening the workforce long-term starts with investing in students. He touted the legislature’s funding of education initiatives to improve math, science and reading test scores.

“Certainly that plays hand in hand with workforce development because if you have a problem filling out an application for a job, that’s a serious problem,” Allen said.

State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy) says the legislature’s efforts to provide tax relief for families and small businesses have also helped the economy.

He says over time, more people will get back to work.

“I think once those federal dollars start drying up coming out of DC, you’ll see the labor participation rate get better, and hopefully businesses will have an easier time finding folks to get back to work,” Allen said.

The labor department is expected to release its February jobs report Friday.