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Dallas-area hiring slows; jobless rate dives to 6.5%


The following ran in the May 18, 2012, edition of the Dallas Morning News. Economist Bernard Weinstein provided expertise for this story.

May 25, 2012

By Bill Bowen

Texas enjoyed continued and comfortable — although slower — job growth in April. Unemployment in Texas cities fell dramatically as North Texas, Austin and, especially, Houston saw solid hiring gains.

Texas unemployment fell to 6.9 percent, down from 7 percent in March, as employers in the state added a net 13,200 jobs, according to the measure from the Texas Workforce Commission, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations. It was the state’s lowest jobless rate since March 2009.

In North Texas, unemployment dropped to 6.5 percent in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington statistical area, down from 7.5 percent in March, and 5,600 jobs were added, according to workforce commission figures not adjusted for seasonal variations. Houston unemployment also was 6.5 percent, down from 7.8 percent in March, as it added 23,000 jobs.

Austin added 9,100 workers, and its unemployment fell to 5.5 percent, down from 6.3 in March.

Statewide, job gains were driven by construction companies and manufacturers, including the chemical plants along the Texas Gulf Coast. Eight of 11 sectors added workers in April.

“The April jobs report is encouraging in that Texas continues to sustain job growth that is both diverse across many goods and services-oriented sectors and spread across most geographic regions,” said economist Ray Perryman of the Perryman Group in Waco.

The construction industry added 7,300 jobs and manufacturers added 6,300, as factory operators establish or expand operations to capitalize on cheap natural gas prices and a skilled and semi-skilled labor force.

The power of high energy prices is creating manufacturing opportunities in Texas, said Bernard Weinstein, an economist at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business.

“That’s good news. Texas exports a lot of oil-field equipment,” Weinstein said. “A lot of the stuff they are making in Houston is being shipped abroad, and that makes manufacturing jobs in Texas.”...