Following a nearly two-year trend, the local unemployment rate crept closer to historic lows last month, the Texas Workforce Commission said in its monthly jobs report. The report for the month of April said the unemployment rate for Sherman-Denison dropped from 3.4 percent to 3.1 percent.
With rates below 4 percent, area economic developers and officials with Workforce Solutions Texoma said the region is in a prolonged state of full employment — where almost all job seekers have found ample employment. In turn, area employers are having an increasingly hard time finding quality candidates from a limited pool, officials said.
“There is a strong demand for skilled labor — actually, there is a demand for all kinds, skilled and unskilled, across the board,” Denison Development Alliance President Tony Kaai said. “When you talk to a restaurant or entry-level employer, they say they can’t find anybody. When you talk to middle- or high-skill employers, they say they can’t find anybody.”
Within Workforce Solutions Texoma, Deputy Director Marsha Lindsey said she has seen the effects of the low employment through its job search assistance. While three years ago it might take a displaced worker several months to find work through Workforce Solutions, Lindsey said current job seekers are typically hired in one to two weeks.
“If you are eligible for work and looking, you should be able find a good job,” Lindsey said. “Most of them (employers) have openings and are looking to hire.”
With a limited labor market, Lindsey said employers have taken efforts to not only increase hiring, but also increase retention of their existing workforce.
“I think we all know that there is hiring going on, so our employers are hesitant to do any layoffs,” Lindsey said. “In this market, once you lay someone off, it will be harder to replace them down the road.”
Stacey Jones, vice president of business retention and expansion for the Sherman Economic Development Corp., concurred with Lindsey regarding efforts to retain. She added that area employers have had to get creative with their efforts to hire and retain staff.
“Not that they weren’t before, but now it is an absolute necessity for them,” Jones said.
Among these efforts, Jones said she has seen wage improvements and other incentives used as a tool to recruit.
SEDCO and other area economic developers have looked into long term solutions to the current workforce shortage. Among the solutions that are being pursued is a focus on training students for advanced manufacturing and other career paths that are locally available. As an intermediate solution, Jones said SEDCO and other partners are looking to attract workers to the region to fill the gap.
“If we continue to grow as we expect, our economic environment will require both of those things,” she said.
Similar to Texoma, both the state of Texas and U.S. unemployment rates saw dips for April. Both rates dropped below the 4 percent line, with the national rate dropping to 3.7 percent and the state dropping to 3.8 percent.
“The Texas labor force is now approaching 14 million and has continued to provide employers with the skills and expertise needed to keep the Texas economy growing,” TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez said in the report. “TWC and the 28 local workforce development boards are committed to connecting Texas workers with available jobs.”