Texas jobless rate is way down, but …

The oil sector of the Texas economy lost 5,300 jobs in August.
The oil sector of the Texas economy lost 5,300 jobs in August. AP

The economic news in Texas has good and bad sides lately, adding up to not-very-encouraging.

The good news is that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in August, down from 4.2 percent in July. The percentage of people who are looking for work and can’t find it is at the lowest level since 2001.

The national jobless rate is 5.1 percent.

Several factors are not so rosy. The first is that the decline in the unemployment rate came even though Texas lost 13,700 jobs last month.

For five years, Texas had a solid record of job growth every month — until March, when BLS reported the state lost 25,200 jobs. The next four months showed job gains again, then came the August decline.

That’s been expected. The drop in oil prices from near $100 a barrel last year to below $40 this summer had to mean fewer jobs in the oil patch. The oil sector lost 5,300 jobs in August.

The unemployment rate declined because the number of people looking for work declined even faster than available jobs. BLS said the labor force in Texas has dropped by more than 160,000 since March.

Not the best path to low unemployment.

And while BLS continues to report a steady increase in employee compensation (up 2 percent for the year ended in June), data published by the Pew Research Center in December showed that inflation-adjusted earnings for most workers have grown little in five decades.

The economy still needs work.