Texas unemployment rate shoots up

January 23, 2009 12:32:39 PM PST
The Texas unemployment rate jumped to 6.0 percent in December and the state lost jobs for the third time in four months, the Texas Workforce Commission said Friday. The unemployment rate was a sharp jump from 5.7 percent in November and 4.2 percent a year ago. It was the first time the state's jobless rate hit 6 percent since 2004, said commission labor representative Ronny Congleton.

The state lost 25,700 nonagricultural jobs in December, the second consecutive monthly drop after the commission revised November figures from a gain of 7,300 jobs to a loss of 11,300. The monthly job loss in September was the first in more than a year, according to the commission.

"Our state's economy has been fairly resilient during these months of economic uncertainty, but the national economic storm has reached Texas," commission chairman Tom Pauken said. "The challenge we face now is to minimize the impact of the national trends by continuing to promote our strong business climate and address the skills needs of Texas employers."

The job losses hit nearly every sector, with the biggest drops coming in trade, transportation and utilities (8,100 jobs) and manufacturing (8,000). The falling prices of oil and natural gas appeared to hit natural resources and mining, which lost 5,100 jobs. Construction dropped 3,300 jobs.

The only sector to gain jobs was leisure and hospitality, with a jump of 3,800. The catchall category -- other services -- gained 1,600 jobs.

Despite the widespread job losses, Texas still compared favorably to the national numbers. The unemployment rate remained below the U.S. average of 7.2 percent. According to commission figures, Texas has a net gain of 153,600 jobs over the past year compared with losses of 2.6 million jobs nationwide.

"Our state leaders have laid a strong foundation for Texas as a business-friendly state with low taxes and less regulation, and that foundation will be crucial in the months ahead," said Andres Alcantar, the commission's public representative.

The commission estimated that 711,800 people were actively looking for work in December, up from 676,000 in November.

Unemployment rates are adjusted for seasonal trends in hiring and firing, which most economists believe gives a better picture of the job market.

Without the seasonal adjustment, the Texas unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent in December from 5.6 percent in November and 4.3 percent a year ago.

Following are the preliminary December jobless rates for local areas in Texas, with revised November numbers in parentheses. The local figures are not seasonally adjusted.

    Abilene 4.3 (4.4)
    Amarillo 3.8 (4.0)
    Austin-Round Rock 5.2 (5.0)
    Beaumont-Port Arthur 7.9 (7.9)
    Brownsville-Harlingen 8.2 (7.8)
    College Station-Bryan 4.1 (4.4)
    Corpus Christi 5.5 (5.3)
    Dallas-Plano-Irving 6.0 (5.8)
    El Paso 7.0 (6.9)
    Fort Worth-Arlington 5.6 (5.5)
    Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown 5.5 (5.5)
    Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood 5.6 (5.6)
    Laredo 6.0 (6.0)
    Longview 4.5 (4.6)
    Lubbock 3.8 (4.1)
    McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 9.1 (8.3)
    Midland 3.1 (3.3)
    Odessa 3.9 (3.9)
    San Angelo 4.5 (4.7)
    San Antonio 5.3 (5.4)
    Sherman-Denison 6.0 (5.7)
    Texarkana 5.1 (5.1)
    Tyler 5.6 (6.3)
    Victoria 4.9 (4.7)
    Waco 4.8 (4.9)
    Wichita Falls 5.5 (5.5)

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