For the ninth month in a row, unemployment in the Sherman-Denison area remained at or below 3.5 percent, the Texas Workforce Commission said Friday in May jobs report. This continues a nearly two-year trend of local unemployment remaining below what is considered “full employment.”

The monthly report saw little change in area unemployment from April, with the rate remaining at just 3.1 percent. This comes seven months after the unemployment rate hit a modern-day low of 2.9 percent in October.

Despite having a limited pool of candidates for open jobs, area workforce and economic development officials said the message is that area employers are hiring.

“There seems to be more optimism than there was previously,” Stacey Jones, vice president of business retention and expansion for the Sherman Economic Development Corp., said. “They (employers) are still continuing to find good people, and that is ultimately what matters.”

Area officials describe full employment as the point at which the majority of a job-seekers have found employment. Typically, this is described as anything below 4 percent.

With the near-record-low unemployment, Jones said area employers are still looking for qualified candidates for available jobs. While her focus area is area call centers, distribution and manufacturing, Jones said the trend is true for most sectors of the economy.

With regard to filling these positions, Jones said the long-term solution could be found in programs aimed at training young adults and high school graduates for locally-available jobs upon graduation. Among the programs that has seen focus in recent years is the Advanced Manufacturing Program, which has been championed by SEDCO and other are development organizations. Jones said the program will see its first class of graduates next year.

During the interim, Jones said the best solution for filling jobs now is to promote what Texoma has to offer. For SEDCO, these efforts have included national marketing campaigns aimed at promoting the region as a place with ample jobs.

In looking at the trends, Marsha Lindsey, deputy director of Workforce Solutions Texoma, said it is also important to look at the size of the workforce, which has seen growth over the past year. Since this time in 2017, Lindsey said the workforce for Grayson County has grown by about 1,800, with Sherman-Denison representing about one-third of the growth.

At the same time, the unemployment rate has dropped from 3.5 percent last May to 3.1 percent this year. Lindsey attributed this to a combination of migration to the region and individuals who may have left the workforce returning to the pool of workers.

Lindsey said time is of the essence for some employers, however, as many employees approach retirement age within the next five years, so it is important for employers to hire the next generation of workers so that they can learn from the previous generation and this knowledge and experience is not lost.

National and state rates saw a slight decrease last month. For the month of May, the state and national rates both dropped by 0.1 percent to 3.8 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.

“Texas employers continue to put the world class Texas workforce to work, adding 34,700 jobs in May and 352,100 over the year,” TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar said in the report. “TWC continues to work with our local and tri-agency partners to foster innovative strategies to equip the Texas talent pool with industry aligned skills. Job creation is strong in Texas.”