Texas hit a new employment record in March

Employment in Texas hit a new high in March as employers in the state added jobs at a record pace in the first three months of the year, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday.

In total, the state added 30,100 jobs in March, bringing total employment to about 13.2 million statewide, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. The unemployment rate fell to 4.4% from 4.7% in February and 6.5% a year ago.

The national unemployment rate was 3.6% in March, down from 3.8% in February.

Texas has gained more than 730,000 jobs over the past year, adding jobs at a steady 6% rate. The first three months of 2022 have been particularly strong, with the state’s economy adding more than 150,000 jobs during this period. This is the highest number of jobs created in the first quarter on record, dating back to 1990.

The Houston area continued to lag the state as a whole. Employment growth slowed sharply in March. Local employers added just 800 jobs last month, after boosting payrolls by nearly 20,000 jobs in February.

February, meanwhile, was not as strong as initially reported, with revisions preventing the region from recovering all the jobs lost during the pandemic recession, said Patrick Jankowski, an economist at the Greater Houston Partnership, a group of business-funded economic development. The revisions kept about 28,000 jobs in Houston from returning to pre-pandemic levels; the state surpassed pre-pandemic employment in November.

Always solid

Houston added about 160,000 jobs over the past year, a solid increase of about 5%. The local unemployment rate fell to 4.4% from 7.2% in March 2021.

Jankowski said an unemployment rate below 5% usually signals a tight job market. He noted that in March, more Houstonians were employed or looking for work than in February 2020, just before the pandemic. Workforce growth is a good sign for employers after nearly two years of labor shortages that have contributed to skyrocketing inflation, Jankowski mentioned.

Job growth continues to be widespread across the state. Financial activities led employment growth in March, adding 7,800 jobs statewide. Manufacturers added 5,600 jobs during the month. Mining and logging – a sector dominated by the oil and gas industry in Texas – added 4,700 jobs in March. Employment in the sector jumped by 14%, or nearly 25,000 jobs over the year.

Houston’s energy industry also saw strong growth, with employment in mining and logging up 6,200 jobs, or about 10% from March 2021.

Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, bars and hotels, led local job gains, adding nearly 37,000 during the year. Education and health services added nearly 23,000 jobs and retail trade nearly 20,000. Manufacturing added 6,500 jobs from March 2021, a gain of 3%.

Jankowski said Houston could return to pre-pandemic employment levels as soon as next month, but the outlook for the economy has become more uncertain.

“The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to fight inflation and the war between Russia and Ukraine is adding to supply chain issues,” he said. “But Houston has enough momentum to keep its economy growing, but maybe not as fast as we would like.”

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