By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
Recent Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) data shows favorable changes in the local unemployment rate and civilian labor force since the start of 2013, with officials giving equal credit to Cooke County’s strength of industry and proximity to larger cities.
April’s unemployment rate was 4.2 percent in a county labor force of 23,839, an upturn when measured against January and its 4.7 percent rate in a workforce of 23,622.
Bob Rohden of Workforce Solutions Texoma said the labor force has grown during the past quarter as the number of unemployed has waned.
“When those two are going in opposite directions, that’s a good sign,” he said Monday. “You’re growing jobs.”
Corporate giants such as Zodiac Aerospace, Winstar Casinos, Peterbilt Motors and Walmart — plus employers such as John Schmitz and Alan Ritchey and the several north Texas energy companies — have flourished in or near Gainesville during the past several years. Rohden added that Cooke County cities, Gainesville most prominent among them, are easy for employees to commute from, to and through by way of Highway 82 and the Interstate 35 corridor.
“I think there are some things there that help you out,” he said. “But traditionally, Cooke County has had the lowest unemployment rate of the counties we serve.”
Kent Sharp of the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation also said the county’s workforce is on a continued upward trend, crediting the energy industry and the locally placed machining and manufacturing companies related to oil and natural gas.
But currently, he added, there are no new major Gainesville employers to announce.
“We’re always actively engaged in trying to interest companies, but we have nothing in ink right now,” he said.
Information from the TWC shows that during the fourth quarter of 2012, the average Cooke County resident earned a weekly wage of $870.77. During the same period, weekly wages averaged $877 in Denton County; $790.54 in Grayson County; and $694.95 in Montague County.
While local pay is above or level with neighboring counties, many local employees choose to reside elsewhere — namely in Denton County, where the housing market is on a higher scale. Residential developments such as a 144-family apartment complex in Gainesville near Interstate 35, established in place of the city’s historic Locke Field, have been proposed but are still tentative.
Sharp said such housing would reduce the commute among well-paid employees who live and work in different cities.
“If those things would ever come to fruition, you’d be able to capture some labor leakage,” Sharp said. “There are hundreds of people who earn a paycheck in Gainesville from eight to five, and then when the end of the day comes, they’re headed east or south.”
According to a recent TWC release, Texas’ seasonally adjusted total nonfarm employment expanded by 33,100 jobs in April. Texas added 326,100 jobs from April 2012 to April 2013. The state’s annual growth rate in April stood at 3.0 percent, and has been above 2.5 percent since the beginning of 2012. Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged in April at 6.4 percent.
“It remains well below the nation’s April unemployment rate of 7.5 percent.
All major industries in Texas added jobs over the last 12 months and our civilian labor force is at an all-time high with more than 12.7 million workers,” said TWC chairman Andres Alcantar. “This is an encouraging period of growth for our state and we will work with our partners to keep Texas the top choice for business in the country.”
Over the month, eight of the 11 major industries in Texas saw positive growth. Trade, transportation and utilities added 16,000 jobs in April. The state’s largest industry, it has grown by 58,400 jobs over the year.
“We’re continuing to see strong growth in the construction industry, which is driven in part by our state’s growing population and expanding businesses,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Ronny Congleton. “Over the year, Construction has been the state’s fastest growing major industry, with a 7.1 percent annual growth rate.”
Mining and logging, a sector that includes oil and gas related jobs, has added 16,800 jobs over the year, including 2,500 in April. The professional and business services sector increased employment by 8,000 jobs in April for a total of 62,000 jobs added over the year. The education and health services sector expanded for the ninth month in a row with 1,900 positions added, while the information employment sector rose by 1,400 jobs. The financial activities sector expanded by 1,300 payroll jobs.