MCALLEN, Texas – The civilian labor force in the Rio Grande Valley is not growing as fast as that of Texas as a whole or, indeed, the United States, as a whole.

This information was reported by Mike Willis, executive director of the South Texas Manufacturers Association. 

At a recent STMA monthly meeting, held at the Double Tree Inn & Suites in McAllen, Willis said he had been looking through the labor reports of Workforce Solutions. He said he had compared the figures for this August and compared them to last August.

“So, the size of the workforce in the United States and Texas increased by about two percent in the last 12 months: 2.3% in Texas, 2% in the USA,” Willis reported.

“In Hidalgo County, the size of the civilian labor force in the last year only increased 0.6%. A little over half a percent in the last year. Cameron County only increased point three, three tenths of one percent.”

Willis said this is not an anomaly. 

“I’ve been sharing with a lot of our EDC friends and some of the schools and community leaders that, pre-COVID, our population growth rates in the Valley have been decelerating. The population is not shrinking, but the rate of growth has decelerated ever since about 2010,” Willis said.

“So the size of our civilian labor force is getting a little smaller which is consistent with the size of our population growth getting smaller.”

Willis said the Valley has “always been blessed” by a rapid growth in our population and an accompanying rapid growth in its workforce.

“Hidalgo County always averaged three percent per year, it seemed like forever. The workforce and the population were growing about three per year. In Cameron County it was about one and a half percent and the country has been under one percent for some time.”

Some years, Cameron County was almost flat, Willis said, And at our county was averaging about one and a half percent instead of 3%. 

“So, I’ve been trying to sound the alarm a little bit that that engine of economic growth, which was a fast growing population that brought all the retail here and a lot of the other stuff… it’s not going away, we’re not shrinking but we’re basically just replacing the size of our population. That’s what the data shows.”

Willis said the workforce of Texas and the U.S. could have grown because people “who had bailed out of the workforce” during COVID had now returned. 

“Anyway, that’s something to keep on keep an eye out for. I am not trying to discourage you HR people and people who are trying to grow your workforce and bring new companies down here but site selectors and corporate people and all that look at data and I look at data so I’m not trying to be a negative person here, but that’s what the data shows.’

Willis said the good news is that the Valley has a lot of young people that have left the region with good education to find work in the big cities for more money. 

He said these talented workers could come back if the Valley had auto assembly plant or something that young people get excited about.

“There’s an opportunity to bring people back to the jobs. And that’s what’s happening. That has to be how (Keppel) AmFELS and SpaceX have gotten a thousand to 2,500 employees at their places. Most of them didn’t come from here. They came here from somewhere else, a lot of them. So, anyway, that’s just something to keep an eye on for.”

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