Texas adds 50,000 jobs in December, smallest gain since August, but still outpaces US

Texas added 50,000 nonfarm payrolls in December and the state’s unemployment rate fell again, but the pace of job growth slowed last month as the omicron variant spread.

December’s gains were lower than the 86,500 jobs added in November and lower than the October and September gains. Texas still grew faster than the country with jobs up 0.4% in December compared to 0.1% for the United States

“We are heading towards a more normal and sustainable level of growth,” said Luis Torres, research economist at the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University. “We are in expansion mode, we are no longer in recovery. And that’s great news, right? »

Job gains were led by the construction industry, which made 10,400 hires, and financial activities, which added 7,200 people, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants and hotels, added 6,500 jobs as it continues to recover from the pandemic. Professional and business services, a major force in Dallas-Fort Worth, added 6,400 positions.

Both industries posted much lower job gains than in November, likely reflecting the start of the latest coronavirus wave.

“We can’t fully reopen the economy until we get the pandemic under control, and the virus continues to have an impact,” Torres said.

Only one sector lost jobs in Texas last month: education and health services, which fell by 1,700, the commission said.

Healthcare jobs make up the bulk of the sector, and the decline is likely linked to high levels of stress and burnout among healthcare workers, Torres said. They have been treating COVID patients and related safety protocols for nearly two years.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5% in December, down 0.2 percentage points from November.

That’s higher than the US unemployment rate, which was 3.9% in December. And it’s higher than in February 2020, just before the pandemic, when the unemployment rate in Texas was 3.7%.

Texas has seen job gains in 19 of the past 20 months, and it ended 2021 with just under 13.1 million non-farm workers. That’s the highest total ever recorded by the state in the jobs survey, and it’s 89,600 more jobs than before the pandemic led to mass shutdowns and layoffs.

The biggest gainer in December was the construction sector, which has been relatively slow to recover – a surprise, given the record growth in sales and house prices since the pandemic. Construction added 10,400 jobs in December after hiring 3,600 in November. These two months accounted for more than half of construction employment growth over the past year.

“We are finally seeing the much-needed shift in mindset that the industry is a great career choice,” said Phil Crone, executive director of the Dallas Builders Association. “Nowadays, you can just as easily have an exceptional career with mud on your boots as if you were stuck behind a desk.”

Wages have risen 7% to 10% for construction workers, he said, and record numbers of builders are still reporting labor shortages.

Mining and logging, which includes the oil and gas industry, has been accumulating strong job gains for some time. With 4,000 jobs added in December, the industry grew by 32,400 workers over the past year. That’s a year-over-year gain of 18.5%, the highest of any industry, according to the Labor Commission.

Oil prices are above $80 a barrel and the number of rigs has risen sharply over the past 12 months, said Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University. Platforms today are very productive, he said, so they have a high multiplier effect on the economy.

The growth of liquefied natural gas exports, which are destined for Asia and Europe, has also contributed to the creation of jobs, both in energy and in construction.

“All the liquefied natural gas plants on the Gulf Coast are running at full capacity and they’re building new ones about as fast as they can,” Bullock said. “And when the salary is high enough, people will work.”

Competition for talent remains fierce in Texas. The number of people leaving their jobs and the number of people hired are near historic highs. And in November, the state had 884,000 job openings, or about 1.2 openings for every unemployed Texan, according to government data.

“There will be a lot of talent moving from one job to another in the coming months,” said Jay Denton, chief labor market analyst at ThinkWhy, a Dallas-based software services company.

Texas’ civilian workforce continued to grow last month, adding more than 45,000 workers. This bodes well for the state’s economy, as employers consistently say they are not finding enough qualified applicants.

In Dallas-Plano-Irving, the unadjusted unemployment rate was 3.6%, down from 3.9% in November, the labor commission reported. Fort Worth-Arlington’s unemployment rate was 3.7% in December.

Amarillo and Austin had the lowest unemployment rate among Texas metros, with an unadjusted rate of 2.9%. At the other end of the spectrum, McAllen’s unemployment rate was 7.8% and Beaumont’s was 7.2%.

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Texas added jobs in all major industries in November, including 3,600 construction jobs, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday.