• October 23, 2014

Texas economy improving at sluggish pace

Killeen area jobless rates above state average

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Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 8:41 pm, Sat Aug 3, 2013.

Job growth in Texas continues to improve at a sluggish pace, according to a report issued Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The Texas economy added 17,800 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in July. In the past year, Texas added 222,500 total nonfarm jobs. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July, up from 7.0 percent in June, but down from 8.1 percent a year ago.

“I am pleased that our state’s economy has been able to show consistent growth across a variety of industries in recent years,” said Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Andres Alcantar. “Over the last two years, the Texas economy has added 457,700 total nonfarm jobs. I encourage those seeking employment to visit WorkInTexas.com to seize the opportunities that are being created here.”

The numbers for the Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood Metropolitan statistical area fall a little short of the statewide figures. Although the unemployment rate decreased, it is higher than the state average. The unemployment rate for Bell County is 8.1 percent, down from 8.3 percent in June and 8.6 percent a year ago. The unemployment rate for Killeen is 8.9 percent, down from 9.3 percent in June and 9.3 percent a year ago.

Harker Heights and Copperas Cove also showed improvement but remain above the state average. The unemployment rate in Harker Heights is 7.6 percent, down from 7.8 percent in June and 8 percent a year ago. Copperas Cove’s unemployment rate is 8.5 percent, down from 8.6 percent in June, but up from 8.3 percent last July.

Central Texas Workforce Commission Career Center Supervisor Wendy Ann Damon said there are two main reasons the Killeen area’s numbers are higher than the state averages.

“First of all, we have been sheltered from a lot of the ebb and flow of the national economy,” Damon said. “We have stayed fairly consistent.”

Damon said the influx of soldiers returning to the area has impacted the unemployment rate.

“That is going to increase your numbers,” she said.

The Education and Health Services Industry added 12,600 jobs in July, more than any other industry in Texas. The industry added 45,200 jobs since last year for a 3.2 percent annual growth rate.

“Health is definitely one of the fastest-growing areas across Central Texas,” Damon said. “Education not so much. I wouldn’t say it is stagnant, but it is not growing at the same rate as health care in our area.”

Professional and business services added 8,500 jobs in July, and has expanded by 48,800 jobs since July 2011. The private sector gained 9,100 positions in July, with nine out of 10 private industries in Texas reporting positive gains over the last 12 months. Damon said the private sector is smaller in the Killeen-Fort Hood area, but she still expects to see increased hiring in that area.

“Because so many contractors are downsizing, a lot of the growth in our area will be from the private sector going forward,” she said.

Damon predicted the growth based on increased corporate investment in Bell County.

“We are seeing movement in the private sector with some larger companies, but that is in all across Bell County, not just Killeen,” Damon said.

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