Despite a slight uptick at the beginning of the year, Sherman-Denison remained at near record-low unemployment, the Texas Workforce Commission said Friday in its monthly jobs report. January’s report found that the local unemployment rose to 3.4 percent but remained below the 4 percent mark that typically signals full employment for a population.
Local unemployment dropped below 3 percent for the first time in modern history when it dropped to 2.9 percent in October. The following months saw a slight uptick before it settled at 3 percent in December.
Marsha Lindsey, deputy director of Workforce Solutions Texoma, said the uptick seen in January could in part be attributed to temporary seasonal retail employment that often temporarily inflate employment numbers. The numbers released by the TWC Friday are not adjusted to reflect these seasonal trends.
“There was bound to be a correction at some point,” she said. “It just can’t keep going down.”
The uptick comes as the region has remained below or near 4 percent unemployment for more than a year leaving the region in what local economic developers have categorized as “full employment.” This term reflects when the vast majority of a region’s population that is seeking employment has found it.
Lindsey said these recent trends have proved difficult for local employers, particularly those in manufacturing and the industrial sector, who are looking to hire from a small pool of candidates.
“They are concerned about not having a qualified pool of applicants for skilled positions,” she said. “They even have many entry-level positions they are trying to fill.”
Denison Development Alliance President Tony Kaai said trends and needs from employers have remained fairly steady throughout the recent low unemployment across both Texoma and the state as a whole.
“The reality is just about everywhere, especially in Texas, the situation is the exact same,” he said.
“They (area employers) are generally discussing with us that they are looking at ways to increase recruiting efficiency and how to get those remaining employees they need for positions,” he added.
Kaai said, from an economic development standpoint, the DDA is taking a multifaceted approach to meeting the need for both jobs and workers alike. Kaai said the DDA has continued its efforts to recruit businesses, that will also attract workers and job seekers to the region. During an interview Monday morning, Kaai said he expects to send out a proposal to a prospective business later this week.
Likewise, he said the DDA is also advocating and supporting the city’s efforts to attract builders and develop its housing infrastructure. With increased housing, those looking to move Denison and Texoma will have a place to live and will bolster the regions labor pool.
During the interim, Lindsey said employers have also adapted their approach and are looking for ways to increase retention of its existing workforce. However, she noted that employers have an aging workforce with many approaching retirement age.
With the low unemployment, and the need for workers, Lindsey said she has seen some workers in manufacturing jumping from job to job based on slight increases in pay. However, she added that many of the employers talk with each other and have informally agreed to keep their own workforce.
“However, you can’t stop someone from moving for an extra quarter an hour,” she said.
Similar to Sherman-Denison, the United States and state of Texas also saw an increase in employment for the month of January. The U.S. unemployment rate increased from 3.9 percent to 4.5 percent, while Texas saw a softer increase from 3.7 percent to 4.2 percent.
“Texas employers kicked off 2018 with the addition of 16,000 jobs in January and 240,500 over the year,” TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar said. “Thanks to our state’s world-class employers, diverse industry sectors and highly-talented workforce, Texas continues to be a national leader in job creation and the premier place to do business.”