As job numbers climb in Texas, Valley unemployment rate is lowest in state

BY RICK KELLEY

THE MONITOR STAFF WRITER

The Texas economy continues to shore up job losses incurred during the pandemic, adding 40,000 non-farm jobs in September and continuing a string of 11 straight months of record employment.

The state jobless rate dropped from 4.1% to 4.0%, the Texas Workforce Commission reported last week. That is slightly above the national jobless rate. 

“Our unemployment rate in this great state of ours is at 4.0. Great. That’s exciting to hear that and being able to share that with everyone around the country, boy, let me tell you, nothing gives us more joy,” said Julian Alvarez, TWC commissioner representing labor interests.

“In September of 2022, Texas added 40,000 nonfarm jobs, more than doubling the number of jobs added in August,” Alvarez said. “For the 11th consecutive month, the state set new employment high at a total of non-farming employment reaching 13,571,000 jobs. The Texas economy has added 721,800 positions since September of 2021.”

Leisure and Hospitality job growth surged in September with 25,700 positions added, marking an 11.8% over-the-year increase. 

Second in over-the-month growth, Trade, Transportation, and Utilities grew by 7,600 jobs.

Financial Activities followed with a gain of 6,200 jobs.

“The number of unemployed in Texas stands at its lowest number since February 2020,” said Gabriel Michael Guzman, with TWC’s Labor Market Information Department. “Even though that 4.0 percent unemployment rate has not returned to the pre-pandemic level, it has returned to the seventh lowest reading in series history which dates back to 1976.”

Alvarez and Guzman, both Harlingen natives, spoke Friday during an online press conference.

The Amarillo and Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Areas continued to record the lowest unemployment rates among Texas MSAs with a rate of 2.8% each in September, followed by Midland at 3.0% and College Station-Bryan and Lubbock both, at 3.1%.

The state’s highest unemployment rate was in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA at 6.7% in September, down from 7.6% in August, and Brownsville-Harlingen at 5.8%, down from 6.4%.

“That metropolitan area seems to always have the highest unemployment rate, right?” Alvarez said. “But there are some things that are happening that are exciting in the Valley. You’ve got the expansion of the LNG plants at the Port of Brownsville, you also have SpaceX which now has a heavy presence down there, and petroleum and other things that are happening.”

Alvarez said TWC and state officials are working to address workforce shortages in industries that are increasingly requiring skilled workers here in the Valley.

“We just rolled out, and we continue to roll out, JET funding (Jobs and Education for Texans Program). This equipment is being used by industry as we speak, whether it’s General Electric that’s there right now or Black and Decker that’s in Mission, Texas,” Alvarez said. “All of this equipment that we’re awarding to these thigh schools is actually being used to train these individuals so that when they complete these programs, and many of them are dual credit, they actually can go into a place of business to go work. Or they can articulate those programs that they’ve studied and actually receive college credit. …” Alvarez also cited the explosive growth of the healthcare industry in the Valley as a counterweight to continued high jobless rates in the region.