The unemployment rate for the Sherman-Denison area rose slightly from near-record lows to 3.7 percent in August, the Texas Workforce Commission said in its monthly workforce report. This leaves the Sherman-Denison area below the state and national unemployment rates, which were both 4.5 percent.
For the state of Texas, August saw a jump in the manufacturing sector as 2,200 jobs were created. This represents a part of a 4.2 percent employment growth rate, the highest since 2012, for manufacturing across the state.
“We are seeing an increase locally in the number of manufacturing jobs and also the number of manufacturing employers who are looking to hire,” Marsha Lindsey, deputy director of Workforce Solutions Texoma, said Friday.
The slight jump in the unemployment rate appears to be due to the small size of the local workforce. Between July and August, the workforce itself remained steady at 61,700, but the employed workforce dropped from 59,500 to 59,400 for a loss of about 100 jobs.
With unemployment remaining below or at 4 percent, Lindsey said the local labor market is effectively at full employment. At this point everyone who is actively looking for employment has already found a job or could easily do so, she said.
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“Even those who have been laid off there should be no barriers to them regaining employment,” she said.
This increase in manufacturing across the state comes as area manufacturers continue efforts to recruit amid job growth and expansion. However, with a limited pool of prospective candidates, this has proved difficult, local economic developers said.
Lindsey said about 30 local industrial employers have joined forces to form a local manufacturing consortium to address their shared concerns. Recently, issues with hiring new workers to fill vacancies have been a major concern for many employers, she said.
This issues facing employers, particularly those in skilled manufacturing, extends beyond the current spike in jobs, she said. In addition to the current growth, Lindsey said employers are also facing the upcoming retirement of many of their more seasoned employees as the baby boomers continue to retire. In August, Lindsey said some employers predict that about 10 percent of their workforce could reach retirement age within the next five years.
“I believe the employers are committed to staying with that committee (the manufacturing consortium) because they see the need for workers both now and in the future,” she said.
Sherman Economic Development Corp. Vice President Frank Gadek said he was uncertain how many jobs have been created within the past year. However, he said he knew of multiple manufacturers who had vacancies within their workforce.
“I know there is a demand in the local industry, but I do not have that number,” he said.
Denison Development Alliance President Tony Kaai said this ongoing trend has been ongoing for the better part of a year, and the results from Friday's report are simply an extension of these trends. Kaai said in recent months Ruiz Foods, ACS Manufacturing, Denison Industries and others have been ramping up their employment.
“Nothing has really changed this month as far as manufacturing workers are concerned,” Denison Development Alliance President Tony Kaai said Friday. “Locally, they are still in high demand.”
As a long-term solution to the need for skilled workers, Kaai said the DDA and other development partners have been working over the past two years in developing a pipeline of workers aimed at training high school students for locally available jobs.
As a part of these efforts, Kaai said the DDA, along with SEDCO, has allocated $50,000 in its latest budget for the local match portion of a grant that WST is seeking to help outfit the new advanced manufacturing lab at Grayson College. Through this and previous grants local economic developers have raised nearly $400,000 toward this effort. An additional $200,000 is expected to come from a second grant that is being pursued by local industries, he said.
Kaai said this program will allow students over the course of three years to pursue manufacturing certifications ahead of their high school graduation.
Following the advanced manufacturing programming coming fully online, Kaai said the DDA plans to increase its focus on the local health care industry.