Unemployment in Texas fell below 4% for the first time since the pandemic closed

(TEXAS TRIBUNE)- Texas continued its 14-month streak of record employment in December, according to the Texas Workforce Commission report Friday. And the state’s unemployment rate fell to 3.9%, falling below 4% for the first time since forced business closures at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas employers added 29,500 non-farm payroll jobs in December, according to TWC. Jobs in education and health accounted for more than 40% of that figure with 12,700 jobs, leading to a rise in jobs last month. Financial services and manufacturing also added 6,300 and 5,500 jobs, respectively.

In total, there are over 13.7 million non-agricultural jobs in the state.

Texas also saw significant job growth throughout most of 2022. From November 2021 to November 2022, Texas ranked second in the nation for the increase in total nonfarm employment with 657,600 jobs, a 5.1% increase, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. . California led the nation with the addition of 675,000 jobs.

“Texas is leading the nation in offering businesses the freedom to thrive and grow,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news release. “We live in a state of endless opportunity, and in the upcoming legislative session, we will continue to work together to keep Texas as the land of opportunity.”

But economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas have noted since September that Texas has been in an economic downturn, most recently citing a slowdown in job growth, output and inflation in the state. For comparison, in September the state added 40,000 jobs, almost 1.4 times more than in December.

“It’s still good job growth and more in line with our ability to fill those jobs,” said Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

In 2023, Orrenius expects Texas to see “significantly slower” job growth, but it will likely still be faster than the rest of the country. At the same time, she said that the Dallas Fed is not yet forecasting a recession in Texas for this year, although she acknowledged that an economic downturn could still occur in the second half of the year or early 2024.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar previously told The Texas Tribune that he expects a “relatively shallow and short-term” recession in the state in 2023, but warned that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to curb inflation nationally could exacerbate the recession. Inflation in Texas has been declining month by month, but Orrenius says the figure is still “very high” year after year.

“A soft landing is what we are seeing for Texas in 2023,” she said.

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