By Justin Cox

Killeen Daily Herald

AUSTIN – The Killeen-area unemployment rate jumped a full percentage point since this time last year, but it's not as bad as the state.

Texas' seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose 43 percent since December 2007, from 4.2 to 6.0 percent, as the state lost 25,700 jobs last month alone, according to a press release from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Texas' unemployment rate of 6.0 percent marks the first time the state's unemployment rate has gone above 6 percent since 2004.

The Killeen-area rate has risen from 4.6 percent to 5.6 percent in that same time frame – not good news, but not as bad as it could be for the area that includes figures from Killeen, Fort Hood and Harker Heights and all the way to Belton and Temple.

That's still far better than the national level, as the U.S. unemployment rate climbed to 7.2 percent in December.

Texas' unemployment rate has consistently remained below the national rate for the past year. The state unemployment rate for December is up from 5.7 percent in November.

Texas employers have added 153,600 jobs in the past 12 months, compared with job losses of 2.6 million nationwide during the same period.

Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken said the national economic wave has finally hit Texas shores.

"Our state's economy has stood up fairly well during these months of economic uncertainty, but the national economic storm has reached Texas," Pauken said.

"The challenge we face now in Texas is to minimize the impact of the national trends by continuing to promote our strong business climate and address the skills needs of Texas employers. ... A loss of more than 25,000 jobs in December (is) a hard hit to our state's economy, which until now has been fairly resilient."

Leisure and hospitality gained 3,800 positions in December, for an industry gain of 31,800 jobs in the past year.

Other services, which include automotive, electronic, and commercial repair and maintenance, grew by 1,600 jobs this month, adding 4,400 jobs in the past 12 months. Texas saw broad industry losses in December.

The trade, transportation, and utilities industry was hit the hardest along with manufacturing as the two industries each loss more than 8,000 jobs.

Ronny Congleton, TWC Commissioner representing labor, tried to balance out the bad by noting the good.

"The Texas unemployment rate continued to follow the national unemployment rate's upward trend," he said.

"For the first time since 2004, our state hit the 6.0 percent unemployment mark after record lows of 4.2 percent just a year ago."

The Midland MSA experienced the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.1 percent (not seasonally adjusted). The Amarillo and Lubbock MSAs were second at 3.8 percent, followed by the Odessa MSA at 3.9 percent.

"Despite the loss of jobs in December, Texas employers have added a significant number of jobs in the past 12 months, while the United States has lost millions of jobs," said TWC Commissioner Representing the Public Andres Alcantar.

"Our state leaders have laid a strong foundation for Texas as a business-friendly state with low taxes and less regulation, and that foundation will be crucial in the months ahead."

Contact Justin Cox at or (254) 501-7568.

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