By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

The Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood Metropolitan Statistical Area suffered a slight increase in its July unemployment rate over both the previous month and July 2007, according to figures released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The increase is probably still related to students and school employees moving in and out of the employment market, said Jerry Haisler, director of the Central Texas Workforce Center in Killeen.

The July jobless rate for the MSA was 5.2 percent, compared with 5.1 percent in June and 5.0 percent in July 2007. The figure in May of this year was 4.4 percent.

"There have been a few minor layoffs – not minor to the people who were laid off, of course, but in statistical terms – but nothing that would affect the rate beyond what we expect with seasonal fluctuations this time of year," Haisler said.

Texas Workforce Commission chairman Tom Pauken said in Austin, "With the increase in the unemployment rate, Texas is beginning to feel the effects of the national economic slowdown. Although job growth remains positive, employers added fewer jobs this month."

Haisler said he did not think the statement could be applied to the local MSA, as closely tied as it is to Fort Hood and its troop movements and other activities. He said local employers may be showing slightly more caution than they have been.

But the unemployment rate is still more reflective of the school year and can be expected to drop again in September if all indicators remain on their present course.

"We're still strong and growing," he said. "You'll see a 10th of a percent gain or drop when one of the call centers adjusts its staff or when some company closes, but overall, our course has been steadily upward."

The state's unemployment rate increase was more pronounced, showing 4.7 percent in July compared with 4.4 percent in June and 4.3 percent in July 2007, moving in the same direction as the local MSA's but more sharply.

The state's rate is usually lower than the local one in any month because of the constant influx of new military personnel whose family members begin looking for work immediately after a transfer. They show up as unemployed until they get jobs. The CTWC's Jobs 4 Military Families program and other services are designed to speed up their search.

The TWC said Texas employers have added 248,000 jobs in the past 12 months for an annual job growth rate of 2.4 percent while jobs nationally have shrunk. The U.S. seasonally adjusted rate reached 5.7 percent in July, up from 5.5 percent in June and 4.7 percent in July a year ago.

The number of unemployed in the local MSA in July, rounded to the nearest hundred, was 8,100, with 146,400 employed of an available labor force of 154,500. In June, 7,900 were reported unemployed of an available labor force of 155,100, with 147,200 employed.

The local government sector dropped 1,600 jobs between June and July, according to the TWC, which attributed the loss to seasonal layoffs of school staff and said the sector still showed a 1.6 percent increase in the sector for the year.

Employment in all other sectors of the economy remained flat except for a miscellaneous category called "other services," which lost 100 jobs.

Local employment was still steadier than the state's, and Haisler said the seasonal slump should end in September.

Contact Don Bolding at or (254) 501-7557.

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