MCALLEN, RGV – Texas Workforce Commission’s labor market report for October shows the unemployment rates again decreasing dramatically across South Texas.

The data shows Hidalgo County’s unemployment rate decreased by 1.2 percent, to 5.7 percent. Cameron County’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.9 percent, to 5.5 percent. Starr County’s unemployment rate decreased by 1.4 percent, to 8.3 percent. Willacy County’s unemployment rate decreased by 1.1 percent, to 8.5 percent. Webb County’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.4 percent, to 3.2 percent.

Mike Willis

The Government sector led the job creation gains in the South Texas border region in October, with an estimated 3,200 jobs added. Over the past twelve months, this sector has added 1,600 new jobs. The Healthcare sector has added 2,700 jobs during the past year, and Professional and Business Services has added 1,400. The total number of non-farm jobs added in all sectors combined over the previous twelve months is 7,600 for the combined McAllen, Brownsville, and Laredo metropolitan statistical areas.

The cities in the South Texas border region all showed significant decreases in their unemployment rates in October:

  • McAllen had the lowest unemployment rate in the RGV at 4.2 percent, a decrease of 0.6 percent from September
  • Edinburg was the second-lowest at 4.7 percent, a decrease of 0.8 percent
  • Harlingen was next at 5.3 percent, a decrease of 0.6 percent
  • Laredo again had the lowest rate in the South Texas border region at 3.2 percent, a decrease of 0.4 percent.

Mike Willis, senior business relations representative for Workforce Solutions in McAllen said that with significant back-to-back reductions in the unemployment rates in the Valley’s cities in September and October, “we are now approaching some of the lowest unemployment rates we have seen going all the way back to 2000.” Willis said he has not been able to readily find data prior to 2000, but believes the region’s unemployment rates were historically much higher in the years prior to 2000. “Based on that assumption, in the period of mid-2007 to mid-2008 (just prior to the recent recession), our area’s unemployment rates had reached the lowest ever recorded, and we are approaching those same levels presently,” Willis said.

Willis gave these examples:

  • The city of Brownsville’s current 5.5 percent unemployment rate has tied its lowest rate since 2000. The 5.5 percent rate was reported in both May 2007 and April 2008
  • The October 2017 rate of 4.2 percent for the city of McAllen is their second-lowest since 2000, approaching their low of 4.0 percent in April 2008.
  • San Juan’s rate this month of 5.8 percent is the 3rd lowest recorded for them. Their low was 5.6 percent, reported in May 2007.
  • Many other communities here are also fairly close to their historical lows, approaching their levels last seen in the 2007-early 2008 period.

“As the unemployment rate continues to shrink and the labor market tightens, it becomes harder for companies to fill openings, and more “market power” shifts to the individual job seeker,” Willis said. “Wage rates typically rise in this environment, as competition for scarce labor forces companies to increase wages and benefits to remain competitive. On the economic development side, it can become more difficult to recruit new business, as the available ‘unemployed’ workforce shrinks.”

Willis said one workforce development strategy that comes to the forefront when the labor market gets tight is the retraining of unemployed individuals who lack the skill sets to find employment in the jobs that are available.

“This could be individuals who have been laid off in sectors that are shedding jobs, high school completers just entering the job market, or even college graduates whose degrees do not provide knowledge, skills and abilities needed by the current job market,” Willis said.

Willis said the South Texas border region is now entering into “the world we were last in during 2006-2008, when the economy was booming and the unemployment rates were low.”

As a consequence, Willis predicted, South Texas border region businesses will see increasing recruitment and retention challenges.

“The business community may also find that in a tight labor market, more of the responsibility will fall on them to provide more on the job training to less-experienced job seekers in order to meet their future talent needs. The workforce and economic development communities will also need to carefully evaluate our strategies to respond to the changing job market and demographics. It is critically important that our education, business, and workforce development communities work together to ensure we develop the talent needed to continue the economic growth we have experienced here in the past.”

Looking at the national and state picture, TWC reported that the seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percent, to 4.1 percent, and in Texas the rate decreased by 0.1 percent, to 3.9 percent.

TWC’s data shows Texas had a net gain of 71,500 Non-agricultural jobs in October, and has added a total of 316,100 in the past year (seasonally adjusted). Goods-Producing employment increased by 6,800 jobs, with gains of 3,200 in Mining & Logging, 4,500 in Construction, and a loss of 900 in Manufacturing.

The Service sectors in total gained 64,700 jobs. The Leisure & Hospitality sector led with an estimated 34,700 jobs added in October. The Service-Providing sector gained an estimated total of 226.700 jobs in the past year.

More service sector jobs

The new unemployment data from the Texas Workforce Commission coincided with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Brownsville for a new Olive Garden restaurant that will create more than 190 new jobs for the community. Located at 3807 N. Expressway, the restaurant will be led by Rio Grande Valley native JC Cantu as General Manager. The ribbon-cutting was held in conjunction with the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce. A picture from the event is posted above.

Cantu said the new restaurant will feature an updated design with new artwork, fabrics and materials, lighting, seating, countertops and flooring, as well as a display of the new “Olive Garden Italian Kitchen” logo sign. The 7,916-plus square-foot restaurant will accommodate more than 250 guests.

Cantu said the menu at Olive Garden continues to feature Italian favorites, such as the Lasagna Classico and unlimited Soup, Salad and Breadsticks, as well as new dishes and limited-time offers year-round. The Tastes of the Mediterranean menu celebrates the flavors and cooking styles inspired by Italy’s Mediterranean coast with dishes like Shrimp Scampi and Chicken Margherita – with all entrées coming in under 600 calories. Guests can also create their own lunch combinations with Lunch Duos, or enjoy catering delivery and ToGo options, Cantu said.