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Jobless rate in state hits 4-decade low

By Ken Hedler
Dec. 22, 2017 at 11:44 p.m.

The Texas unemployment rate fell to its lowest level on record last month as hiring picked up in the manufacturing and service sectors and the state continued to bounce back from Hurricane Harvey.

At 3.8 percent, the statewide rate in November was the lowest since records began in January 1976, when unemployment was 5.9 percent.

The rate for the three-county Longview area ticked up to 4.2 percent in November, according to data released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission. The national average was 4.1 percent.

"Our record low unemployment rate is further proof that the Texas model of low taxes and reasonable regulations is working better than ever," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. "This record of 3.8 percent is also a testament to our diverse and talented workforce that is attracting new businesses to the state every day and driving our booming economy."

Nine of 11 major industry sectors added jobs as the state added 54,500 positions during the month, the workforce commission said, and marked 91 consecutive months of growth.

In the Longview area, the number of people between jobs in Gregg, Rusk and Upshur counties grew to 4,100 in November from 3,900 in October while the civilian labor force also increased to 97,500 from 96,800 in October.

November's 4.2 percent rate was up from 4 percent a month ago, an increase Mayor Andy Mack called "insignificant."

"That does not worry me at all," he said. "Our economy is strong and our job market is strong, and we will continue to add jobs."

Like Mack, Wayne Mansfield, president and CEO of the Longview Economic Development Corp., did not give much weight to the increase.

In a statement, he said the jobless figures for the Longview market do not take into account people who are able and not seeking work or those who might be underemployed.

"However, the fact that the labor force grew is certainly good news," Mansfield added. "That would mean that more people are actively seeking work due to more employment opportunities, more are moving into our area, or a combination of both."

Workforce Commission Chairman Andres Alcantar said the data reflected both a strong economy and workforce.

"The addition of 33,600 jobs over the year demonstrates the consistency with which employers in our state create job opportunities for the highly skilled Texas workforce," he said. "The Texas economy offers employers access to a competitive workforce and provides job seekers with career options in a variety of growing Texas industries."

Industry sectors adding jobs were led by the professional and business services sector with 14,700 jobs. Three sectors added 8,200 jobs apiece: construction; education and health services; and trade, transportation and utilities.

Leisure and hospitality employment added 8,000 jobs in November, and the manufacturing industry gained 2,700 positions.

Information lost 1,600 jobs.

Amarillo and Midland had the lowest unemployment rates in Texas last month at 2.6 percent. The Beaumont-Port Arthur area had the state's highest jobless rate during November at 6.5 percent, the commission reported.



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