The unemployment rate for the Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood Metropolitan Statistical Area dropped to 6.1 percent in March.
About 1,000 fewer people in the statistical area claimed unemployment in March compared to February, according to data from the Texas Workforce Commission. The decline led to more than half a percent decrease in the unemployment rate.
The Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood rate is higher than the state’s rate of 5.3 percent, but less than the national rate of 6.8 percent.
March’s rate was down from 7 percent in March 2013.
The labor force grew by about 600 people during the period. About 162,700 people were employed in March compared to February’s 161,100.
“The economy is improving and there is more jobs being posted,” said Jerry Haisler, the Central Texas Workforce Center director. “When people read and hear unemployment is high, they just give up and don’t look.”
The area has continued job growth during the last year and more people are connecting with available positions, he said.
Two labor industries grew by 400 people during the month — education and health services and leisure and hospitality.
“The health industry is certainly growing in this area,” Haisler said. “Scott & White is continuing to build clinics.”
Several restaurants hired additional employees in March, including Twin Peaks, which began hiring in mid-February.
The restaurant chain filled 135 positions and will open soon in Harker Heights.
In Copperas Cove, C&H Hawaiian Grill opened a second location Feb. 28 and had no problem hiring employees.
“We hired about eight people over there,” said Cora Timo, owner of the Hawaiian barbecue restaurant.
Manufacturing, financial activities and government industry sectors lost 100 jobs each, according to data from the workforce commission.