The Sherman-Denison area continues to see strong employment numbers, as the local unemployment rate dropped to 3 percent in March, down from 3.3 percent in February.


The U.S. economy overall had a 3.9 unemployment rate, while the state of Texas sits slightly lower at 3.5 percent for the month. A press release issued by the Texas Workforce Commission said the state added 22,600 new jobs in the month of March with the civilian labor force increasing to over 14 million individuals.


Workforce Solutions Texoma Executive Director Janie Bates said the economy continues to be strong while the labor shortage is putting a burden on some employers.


“If you look at the number of people in the civilian labor force, we’re still increasing,” Bates said. “I think people are seeing we have jobs here and people are moving here for those jobs. Across the board, there has been an increase in the number of people in the civilian labor force, that shows this area is growing.”


Private sector employers added 262,300 jobs over the year. Private annual employment growth was at 2.5 percent in March and has held above 2 percent since October 2017.


“Texas’ economic miracle is a testament to the unmatched innovation of our Texas employers and their dedication to creating jobs and investing in communities across the state,” TWC Chair Ruth Ruggero Hughs said in a press release. “The Texas economy offers employers access to a competitive workforce and provides job seekers with career options in a variety of growing Texas industries.”


Bates said she didn’t know whether the federal government policy of cracking down on immigrants at the border was contributing to the nationwide labor shortage but said it’s especially hitting the middle-skills area. She said the area had its big job fair last month with 1,000 jobs advertised and only 330 job seekers showed up to apply for those jobs.


“There is a labor shortage across the country, especially in the middle-skills area,” Bates said. “That is one of the reasons we started the Advanced Manufacturing Program. When you start talking about middle-skills occupations, the people who would work the factories, the people who are hands on, mechanical jobs, we do have a shortage. For a while, we had such an emphasis on everybody had to get a four-year degree, we were not emphasizing the service industry, the trades.”


Sherman Economic Development Corp. President Kent Sharp said the labor shortages are also driving up wages.


“Businesses and industries have added millions of jobs in the last two or three years,” Sharp said. “There’s just not enough people to fill the jobs — it is affecting wage rates. Most workers are seeing moderate rises in their earnings year over year. I talk to production supervisors, CEOs, and business owners are all telling me the same thing, they are having to increase wages to be competitive to get employees.”


Denison Development Alliance Tony Kaai said he believes everyone that is employable has a job.


“There are a few higher-end professionals in the area that are harder to fill,” Kaai said. “As far as the typical worker, there continues to be huge demand. It’s going to continue to be that way in the foreseeable future.”


Kaai said 3 percent is a number that means full employment. He said those who aren’t finding work likely can’t for some reason or another, such as not being able to pass a drug test.


Richard A. Todd is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contacting him at rtodd@heralddemocrat.com.