The Texas unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent in March despite employers around the state adding just 9,100 jobs in the month.The Texas Workforce Commission said the seasonally adjusted rate, down from 5.7 percent in February, was helped by job gains in seven of the state’s 11 major industry categories, although construction showed a loss. It’s the state’s lowest jobless rate since October 2008.The comparable U.S. rate is 6.7 percent.The agency said that in the past 12 months employers have added 310,000 payroll positions, led by business services and leisure/hospitality.In Fort Worth-Arlington, the March jobless rate was 5.2 percent. That figure is not adjusted for seasonal variations, and compares to an unadjusted Texas rate of 5.3 percent.Midland, in the heart of the booming Permian Basin, had the state’s lowest rate, 2.7 percent, while McAllen-Edinburg-Mission in the Lower Rio Grande Valley had the highest at 9.4 percent.The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, which does its own analysis of the job numbers, which come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, estimated that Texas employers added 8,300 jobs in March, versus 33,100 in February.Nationally, more than two-thirds of the states reported job gains in March, as hiring has improved for much of the country during what has been a sluggish but sustained 4 1/2-year recovery. The Labor Department said unemployment rates dropped in 21 states, rose in 17 and were unchanged in the remaining 12. Meanwhile, hiring increased in 34 states and fell in 16. The unemployment rate varies from as low as 2.6 percent in North Dakota to as much as 8.7 percent in Rhode Island. South Carolina has experienced the sharpest rate decline over 12 months to 5.5 percent from 8 percent. Employers added 192,000 jobs nationwide in March, close to the average monthly gains of the past two years. Unemployment rates can fall when people leave the job market, as well as when employers hire. Several states continue to lag the gains made across the country. Unemployment remains elevated in Nevada (8.5 percent), Illinois (8.4 percent), California (8.1 percent) and Kentucky (7.9 percent). This report includes material from the Associated Press.
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay