Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
The local unemployment rate for January increased considerably to 11.0 percent.
The Texas Workforce Commission on Friday announced the higher jobless rates for Orange County, all of Southeast Texas and the state, while stating Texas employers continue to hire people.
The unemployment rate of 11.0 percent in Orange County is an increase of 0.8 percentage points over December 2012 and one full point higher than at this time in 2012.
“The increase in unemployment was largely due to the number of seasonal jobs and construction projects which ended across the area,” said Bobby Fillyaw, director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation. “Combine those two things with the fact that Texas is gaining almost 1,000 people a day in population, and those numbers are definitely going to fluctuate. Some of those people moving to Texas are employed and some are not.”
Figures indicated 4,597 people were considered unemployed this report in Orange County, which is an increase of 390 people from December 2012.
The overall unemployment rate in Southeast Texas is at 10.8 percent, according to Friday’s report by the TWC. Jefferson County’s unemployment rate increased to 11.3 percent, as did the unemployment level in Hardin County to 8.5 percent.
“When you compare Orange County to the Jefferson and Hardin Counties, we had the second lowest increase in the three county region. The state of Texas even had a larger increase in unemployment than Orange County.
The Texas unemployment level was at 6.9 percent, according to TWC. This is an increase of nearly one full percentage point from the previous month. Nationwide unemployment for January was 7.9 percent and slipped to 7.7 percent in February.
Workforce officials say Texas employers continued to expand their payrolls in January with the addition of 10,400 total nonfarm jobs for a total of 310,900 jobs added during 2012.
A burst of hiring last month added 236,000 U.S. jobs and reduced the U.S. unemployment rate to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January, according to the Associated Press. The robust gains suggested that the economy can strengthen further despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.
The February jobs report issued Friday by the Labor Department provided encouraging details: The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years. Job growth has averaged more than 200,000 a month since November. Wages rose. And the job gains were broad-based, led by the most construction hiring in six years.
Employers have been emboldened by a rebounding U.S. economy. The housing, auto and manufacturing sectors have improved. Corporate profits are strong. And the Dow Jones industrial average is at a record high.
The unemployment rate, which had been stuck at 7.8 percent or above since September, declined mostly because more people found work. Another factor was that 130,000 people without jobs stopped looking for work last month. The government doesn’t count them as unemployed.
Chairman Andres Alcantar says the Texas economy continues to add jobs and create opportunity with growth in all 11 major industries over the last year.
Fillyaw said even with the increase in Friday’s unemployment figures, the outlook for Orange County, Southeast Texas and the state is improving.
“Consumer confidence is high right now. If you compare sales tax receipts with unemployment numbers, then you will see,” Fillyaw explained. “Texas is being positioned for huge, huge growth in the energy sector and the rest of this year should yield some big changes. Overall, we’re looking pretty good right now.”
Midland had the lowest statewide unemployment in January at 3.4 percent. The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area had the state's highest jobless rate at 11.6 percent.