By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – The March unemployment rate in Texas increased slightly despite the Lone Star State’s economy addition of 9,500 non-farm jobs during the month. The state has also added jobs in 23 of the last 24 months, according to data released by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) released its monthly unemployment statistics for March 2017 on Friday, April 24 and the data showed the state’s unemployment rate inching upwards from 4.9 percent in February 2017 to five percent in March 2017. The March 2017 mark was also slightly higher than the March 2016 unemployment rate which came in at 4.6 percent.

Statewide, the highest unemployment level recorded was 8.5 percent, in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) area.

An MSA is defined as a “… free-standing metropolitan area composed of one or more counties.”

The lowest rate, at 3.5 percent, was in the Amarillo MSA. The nearest regional MSA is located in Tyler and came in at 4.7 percent for the month of February.

In addition, the Texas unemployment rate was higher than the national jobless rate of 4.5 percent and marked the second consecutive month the Texas rate exceeded the national level.

While the state numbers showed an increase, the unemployment rates for the surrounding counties were a mixture of static rates, decreases and increases over the month-to-month timeframe.

In Houston County, the unemployment rate for February came in at 4.9 percent, while the March rate decreased and came in at 4.6 percent for the month. The March 2017 rate was also lower than the 4.8 percent unemployment rate posted in March 2016.

The unemployment rate in Anderson County also dropped as it fell from 4.3 percent in February to 4.1 percent in March. In addition, the March 2017 rate was lower than the 4.3 rate posted in March 2016.

To the south, in Trinity County, the month-to-month rate remained at the same 6.8 percent as it was in February 2017. The 6.8 percent rate for March 2017, however, was higher than the 6.3 percent rate from a year ago.

The unemployment rate in Cherokee County came in at 5.6 percent for February, while the March rate decreased and came in at 5.3 percent for the month. The March 2017 rate was higher than March 2016 rate of 5.1 percent.

The largest population center in the immediate area, Angelina County, showed a decline in the rate on a month-to-month basis as the figures revealed the unemployment rate dropping from 6.5 percent in February to 6.3 percent in March. The Angelina County unemployment rate for March 2017, however, was higher than in March of 2016, when the rate stood at 5.8 percent.

On a month-to-month basis, Leon County posted the highest rate in the region. The statistical data indicated a decrease from 8.1 percent in February 2017 to 7.5 percent in March 2017. The recent figures also pointed to an increase from the March 2016 unemployment rate of 6.4 percent.

Rounding out the area counties, Madison County broke the trend and showed an increase in the unemployment rate. The rate was 5.4 in February 2017 and inched upwards to 5.5 percent in March 2017. The March rate was, however, significantly higher than the 4.9 percent rate posted in March 2016.

In the aforementioned press release from the Texas Workforce Commission, TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar stated, “Texas employers continue to boost the diverse Texas economy by adding jobs, including 249,000 over the year. Texans continue to have a range of workforce opportunities created by our innovative Texas employers, and I encourage job seekers and students to explore these opportunities with local workforce boards around the state.”

The media statement further indicated, “Employment in the Professional and Business Services industry recorded the largest private-industry gain over the month with 13,200 jobs added. Mining and Logging employment grew by 4,800 jobs in March and Construction employment expanded by 4,000 jobs.”

TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs added, “Texas employers continue to keep our state competitive with an overall private-sector annual job growth of 210,500 with 7,000 jobs added in March. When Texas employers prosper, Texans prosper, and we want to ensure they have the resources they need to start, grow and thrive their businesses right here at home.”

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.