Business

Jobless rate inches up to 2.5 percent

Increase in Midland unemployment from 2.4 percent is because of seasonal factors, according to TWC
Published 10:14 pm, Friday, March 23, 2018

Midland’s labor market continued to exhibit a strength in February that prompted Tim Dove, president and chief executive officer of Pioneer Natural Resources to quip earlier this month that “Midland must be in negative unemployment by now.”

The Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday that the Midland metropolitan statistical area had an unemployment rate of 2.5 percent, up marginally from 2.4 percent in January but well below the 3.8 percent posted in February 2017. Midland recorded the lowest unemployment in the state, ahead of Amarillo’s 2.9 percent, and is tied for the fifth lowest in the nation.

Odessa saw its unemployment inch down to 3.2 percent from 3.3 percent in January.

Willie Taylor, chief executive officer of Workforce Solutions Permian Basin, attributed Midland’s marginal rise to seasonal factors. Midland’s strong labor market is attracting newcomers, sending the civilian labor force up by about 800 from January to February. While almost all those newcomers found jobs, the few who were added to the unemployment count sent the rate slightly higher.

“The activity levels in this region are unbelievable,” Taylor said.

Noting that most economists consider a 5 percent unemployment rate full employment, Taylor said Midland’s 2.5 percent rate offers challenges.

“We don’t have enough people,” he said. And while Midland’s stable wages – and the high wages offered by the dominant mining, logging and construction sector – are attracting people from low-wage areas, he said they can’t find affordable housing.

Wages will be an issue, as the tight labor market will put upward pressure on them, Taylor said.

Midland added 100 jobs from January to February, with 200-job gains in the mining, logging and construction and the leisure and hospitality sector and 100 new jobs in the government sector. Those gains were offset by the loss of 200 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector and 100 jobs each in the information and the education and health services sector.

For the 12 months from February 2017 to February 2018, Midland added 8,100 jobs for a growth rate of 9.1 percent. Almost all industrial sectors added jobs during those 12 months, led by the 5,400 jobs added by the mining, logging and construction sector. Trade, transportation and utilities sector was next with 900 new jobs, followed by leisure and hospitality with 800 new jobs. The manufacturing sector, the financial activities sector and professional and business services sector added 300 jobs each, while other services added 100 jobs.

“When you look at 8,100 new jobs annually, that’s great,” Taylor said.

He said with high school graduation season approaching, a number of those students will be headed to college or the military, but he hopes some will stay and join the local workforce.

Statewide, the unemployment rate held steady at 4 percent. Texas added 40,500 jobs over the month and has gained 285,200 jobs over the last 12 months. Texas had reported employment growth for 20 consecutive months, the Workforce Commission said.

While Midland reported the state’s lowest unemployment, the highest was reported in McAllen-Edinburg-Mission at 7.1 percent.

Midland unemployment

January 2018 2.4 percent

January 2017 4 percent

February 2018 2.5 percent

February 2017 3.8 percent

Preliminary numbers for February with January numbers in parentheses:

Midland 2.5 (2.4)

Amarillo 2.9 (2.8)

Austin-Round Rock 3.0 (3.0)

College Station-Bryan 3.0 (3.0)

Lubbock 3.1 (3.1)

Odessa 3.2 (3.3)

San Angelo 3.3 (3.3)

San Antonio-New Braunfels 3.4 (3.4)

Sherman-Denison 3.4 (3.4)

Abilene 3.5 (3.6)

Wichita Falls 3.5 (3.6)

Fort Worth-Arlington 3.6 (3.6)

Dallas-Plano-Irving 3.7 (3.6)

Tyler 3.8 (3.8)

Waco 3.8 (3.8)

Laredo 3.9 (3.9)

Killeen-Temple 4.1 (4.1)

Victoria 4.3 (4.4)

El Paso 4.5 (4.6)

Longview 4.5 (4.6)

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 4.7 (4.8)

Texarkana 4.8 (4.8)

Corpus Christi 5.5 (5.8)

Brownsville-Harlingen 6.7 (6.8)

Beaumont-Port Arthur 6.8 (7.3)

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 7.1 (7.6)

~Source reference~