The unemployment rate in the three-county Longview area dipped to its lowest level in May since 2000, which is when the Texas Workforce Commission started keeping records, the commission reported Friday.
The rate dropped to 3.1 percent in Gregg, Rusk and Upshur counties — down from the 3.2 percent record set in April and from 3.8 percent a year ago — according to the commission.
The area also outperformed the Texas rate of 3.5 percent in May, which was the lowest since tracking began in 1976.
The lower unemployment rate in the Longview area also coincided with a decline in the civilian labor force to 96,100 people from 96,500 in April, with the number of people between jobs also falling from 3,100 to 3,000, according to the commission.
The mayors of Longview and Kilgore credited a diversifying economy as the region expands beyond the oil and gas industry with the record unemployment rate.
“We are still trending in a great direction,” Longview Mayor Andy Mack said. “It just shows we are really doing good in diversifying our economy and giving people a chance to work.”
Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin expressed similar views.
“Well, we can assume that the job growth is not energy related as it has been in the past,” he said. “I would think is it primarily due to the diversification that has happened in the East Texas area over the last decade, This is across-the-board prosperity.”
The statewide record low “highlights the competitive strength of our Texas economy and is a testament to the hard work of our Texas employers and skilled workforce,” said Ruth Hughs, TWC chairwoman and commissioner representing employers. “Our economy is thriving across multiple industries, attracting new companies every day, showing Texas is the best state in the nation to do business.”
Private-sector employers added 277,000 jobs over the year, the commission reported. Private annual growth rate was at 2.6 percent in May and has held above 2 percent since October 2017.
Professional and business services led all major industries in May statewide, adding 8,100 jobs. Education and health services added 4,500 during the month while construction brought 3,300 more jobs.
The Midland metropolitan statistical area recorded the lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs in May at 1.7 percent followed by Amarillo and Odessa MSAs at 2.1 percent.
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission reported the highest unemployment rate at 5 percent.