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Texoma sees slight uptick in unemployment

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Texas Workforce Commission is reporting the the Sherman-Denison area saw slight increase in unemployment for the September. This comes in spite of ample job openings and no major layoffs, economic development experts said.

The Sherman-Denison area broke a four-month streak of decreasing unemployment in September, when the local market increased for the first time since April, the Texas Workforce Commission said in its month unemployment rate.

Last week, the commission reported that the unemployment rate rose 1.1 percent to 6.1 percent in September, marking this first time since April and the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic that the rate has increased.

Despite the increase listed by the commission, area economic developers said the local economy is still on the path toward recovery following the pandemic and there have been no recent major layoffs..

"We have so many jobs still listed," Workforce Solutions Texoma Executive Director Janie Bates said. "When we have 1,000 jobs or so in our system ... it is very interesting that we have had an uptick in unemployment."

Bates said she has seen no signs of an increase, and the market has otherwise steadily recovered following April's rates, the highest unemployment rates seen in over a decade.

After a certain amount of time, unemployed workers who are not seeking employment can be removed from workforce reporting.  With portions of the economy reopening, and recent reductions in unemployment benefits, Bates said it is possible workers have returned to the workforce, potentially shifting the numbers.

This falls in line with what Bates  said previously regarding instability in the civilian work force, which increased by nearly 2,000 people in August only to drop by 1,000 in September's report.

"When things like COVID happen, many people may move back home, because maybe they've lost their job or maybe they don't have a place to live,"  Bates said. "That can contribute to some of that fluctuation in the civilian workforce."

Tony  Kaai, president of the Denison Development Alliance, concurred with Bates, noting that the change likely related to how the rate is calculated.

"It's got to be something like that. Based on the information I have, there is nothing to support that unemployment should be on the rise," Kaai said.

Historically, the fall months typically see a decrease in unemployment as many retailers ramp up hiring for the holiday season. However, with the pandemic, Kaai said many shoppers may shop online and avoid the crowds.

"You can have brick and mortar, but you are going to need e-commerce to support it," Kaai said. "That's what we are seeing in the future."

Despite the increase, the local unemployment still remains below both state and national averages of 8.3 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.

"Despite the increase in the overall unemployment rate, Texas had a net gain in jobs for September,” TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel said in a press release. “TWC continues to implement tools to spur additional job growth as a critical part of our efforts to grow the state’s economy."