Unemployment in Texoma dropped below 3 percent in October, marking the lowest it has been in modern history, the Texas Workforce Commission said Friday in its monthly employment report. The commission found that local unemployment dropped to just 2.9 percent in October as area retailers approach the holiday hiring season.
Friday’s report comes as the region has remained in a state of “full employment” — where the vast majority of all job seekers have found employment — for more than a year.
“It holds true that at this low a number that almost everyone has a job at this point,” Workforce Solutions Texoma Executive Director Janie Bates said. “Of course there are always exceptions, but this in general is the case.”
The latest decrease in unemployment comes one month after TWC marked a half-percent drop in the local unemployment rate when it fell to 3.2 percent. At the time, local economic developers said it was the lowest in over 20 years. With this month’s report, Bates said it is the lowest unemployment rate she has seen in at least 40 years.
Bates said the low unemployment rate crosses much of the region as all three of the counties served by Workforce Solutions are at or near historic lows. Bates said the current unemployment rate in Fannin County is 3 percent, while Cooke County currently sits at 3.2 percent.
She noted that this recent drop in Grayson County might be a natural shift in the market as people migrate to and from the area. The latest report recorded the total local workforce at about 60,800, a reduction in the local workforce by about 800 workers over the previous month. Similarly, the number of individuals seeking jobs in the Sherman-Denison area dropped from 2,000 to 1,700.
Additionally, Friday’s numbers were not adjusted for expected seasonal shifts, including the upcoming holiday season.
This prolonged low unemployment rate has made recruitment difficult for area employers, who are competing over a dwindling pool of candidates. At issue, Bates said many of the remaining candidates may not have the skills needed for some of the higher-demand jobs and industries.
As a solution to this issue, Bates said Workforce Solutions has been working with area economic developers, industries and educators to start preparing future workers for local jobs at an early age. These efforts include new training programs, partnerships with Grayson College and local school districts and initiatives to break the stigma around industrial jobs.
“We try to continue an active education with parents on what their child needs to be successful in entering the local workforce,” she said.
Sherman Economic Development Corp. President John Plotnik described the needs as “middle skills” — jobs or skill sets that require post-secondary training, but not necessarily a four-year degree. Locally, these jobs focus primarily on the health care and advanced manufacturing industries, he said.
In an effort to increase these skills in the local market, Plotnik said SEDCO has partnered with Grayson College and other partners to offer vocational training for high school students starting in January. Plotnik said these college credits will be applicable toward the student acquiring a high school diploma.
In addition to training future generations for locally-available jobs, Plotnik said he also hopes to take advantage of heavy migration to Texas in recent years by increasing marketing for the region. Based on information from the governor’s office, Plotnik said about 1,500 people move to Texas each day.
“I want a piece of that,” Plotnik said. “When these folks come to Texas, they go to Dallas. They go to Houston. They go to San Antonio. They don’t know about growing communities like Sherman and Waxahachie.”
Plotnik said he plans to start a new marketing campaign, focused online, that will target areas with high unemployment. Through this campaign, Plotnik said he hopes to target about 10 million workers and show them what Texoma has to offer.
“If you are a welder welding boilers in Michigan and you lose your job, you likely won’t find another,” Plotnik said. “But here in Sherman there are plenty of job opportunities.”
Friday’s report also marked a drop in the national and state unemployment rates. For the month of October, the state average unemployment rate dropped half a point from 4 percent in September to 3.5 percent. The national average unemployment also dropped from 4.1 percent to 3.9 percent.
“By adding an impressive 71,500 jobs over the past month and 316,100 jobs over the year, Texas employers have once again demonstrated their unmatched innovation and ability to achieve success in our country’s premier place to do business,” TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar said in the report. “This economy provides valuable opportunities for the highly skilled Texas workforce to also achieve success.”