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Unemployment rate still great in Permian Basin

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Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 12:00 am

Texas’ economy continues to improve, and locally the Odessa and Midland metro areas remain well ahead of the rest of the state, according to figures released Friday by the state employment agency.

Odessa’s jobless rate fell to 4.4 percent in March from 4.5 percent last month. It was also down from 6.1 percent at the same time in 2011 and from March 2010 when 8.3 percent of Odessa’s labor force was unable to find employment.

But Midland once again was star of the Lone Star State with 3.7 percent unemployment, down 0.1 percentage point from February. Midland’s unemployment rate from March 2011 was 0.7 percentage point’s higher than this year, but that would still have been better than every other metro area in the state in 2012 except Odessa.

Texas' seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 7.0 percent in March, marking the seventh consecutive month of decline.

The state's unemployment rate was down from 7.1 percent in February and 8.0 percent a year ago, the Texas Workforce Commission said.

"The Texas economy continues to show strength" and experience job growth in the private sector, said Tom Pauken, chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission.

In addition, he said, the state's jobless rate consistently has remained below the national jobless rate for at least five years. The national unemployment rate has also been falling, down to 8.2 percent in March.

Overall, the March unemployment rate was 4.5 percent for the Permian Basin Workforce Development Area, consisting of the counties of Andrews, Borden, Crane, Dawson, Ector, Gaines, Glasscock, Howard, Loving, Martin, Midland, Pecos, Reeves, Terrell, Upton, Ward and Winkler.

Of the 231,671 people looking for jobs in the Permian Basin WDA, 221,324 were employed, according to preliminary TWC numbers.

The workforce commission reports Texas added 10,900 nonfarm jobs last month, and there were gains in eight of the state's 11 major industries. Leisure and hospitality sectors grew the most with 6,000 new jobs, followed by a jump of 3,100 positions in information services.

The biggest losses were in trade, transportation and utilities, which lost 4,000 jobs last month.

All Odessa’s industries increased or stayed pat from last month and last year. Odessa’s largest sector was in Mining, where about 15,000 people were employed, 1,900 more than a year before. Transportation was next at about 14,800 people, or 1,700 more people than March 2011. Overall nonfarm employment for Odessa was up 1.3 percent from February and 9.5 percent from March 2011 at 70,400 people.

Again, Midland’s numbers exceeded these with 19,300 people in Mining and 13,900 people in Transportation. The total nonfarm employment was 74,100 for Midland, representing about 400 less people employed in those sectors than in February.

While still showing 2.5 percent annual growth in employment, that’s considerably slowed from the period of December 2010 to September 2011 when it showed 8.0 percent or better year-over-year growth. Odessa’s annual growth has been around 10.0 percent since June 2011, but also .

State and national unemployment rates are adjusted for seasonal trends in hiring and firing, which most economists believe give a more accurate picture of the job market. Without the seasonal adjustment, the jobless rate in Texas would have remained at 7 percent from 7.2 percent in February.

Amarillo had the third lowest unemployment rate in Texas at 4.8 percent. The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission region tied with Brownsville-Harlingen for the highest at 10.7 percent, which was down from February in both regions.

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