By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – The February unemployment rate in Texas increased slightly despite the Lone Star State’s economy addition of 6,700 non-farm jobs during the month. The state has also added jobs in 22 of the last 23 months, according to data released by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) released its monthly unemployment statistics for February 2017 on Friday, March 24 and the data showed the state’s unemployment rate inching upwards from 4.8 percent in January 2017 to 4.9 percent in February 2017. The February 2017 mark was also slightly higher than the February 2016 unemployment rate which came in at 4.6 percent.

Statewide, the highest unemployment level recorded was 8.8 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 3.6 percent, was in the Amarillo MSA. The nearest regional MSA is located in Tyler and came in at 4.8 percent for the month of February.

In addition, the Texas unemployment rate was higher than the national jobless rate of 4.8 percent and marked the first time in nearly 10 years the Texas rate exceeded the national level.

While the state numbers showed an increase, the unemployment rate for the surrounding counties was a mixture of static rates, increases and decreases.

In Houston County, the unemployment rate for January came in at 4.8 percent, while February’s rate increased and came in at 4.9 percent for the month. The February 2017 rate was also higher than the 4.6 percent unemployment rate posted in February 2016.

The unemployment rate in Anderson County held steady as it stayed at 4.2 from January to February 2017. The February 2017 rate was also the same as the rate posted in February 2016.

To the south, in Trinity County, the month-to-month rate showed an increase from January to February as the rate went from 6.6 to 6.7 percent. The 6.7 percent rate for February 2017 was also higher than the 6.2 percent rate from a year ago.

The unemployment rate in Cherokee County remained the same in February as it was in January 2017 when it came in at 5.6 percent. The February 2017 unemployment rate, however, was significantly higher than in February of 2017 when the county’s rate stood at five percent.

The largest population center in the immediate area, Angelina County, also showed an incline in the rate on a month-to-month basis as the figures showed the unemployment rate rising from 6.4 percent in January to 6.5 percent in February. The Angelina County unemployment rate for February 2017 was also higher than in February of 2016, when the rate stood at 5.7 percent.

On a month-to-month basis, Leon County posted the highest rate in the region. The statistical data indicated an increase from 7.8 percent in January 2017 to eight percent in February 2017. The recent figures also revealed an increase from the February 2017 unemployment rate of 6.5 percent.

Rounding out the area counties, Madison County broke the trend and showed a decrease in the unemployment rate. The rate was 5.7 in January 2017 and dipped to 5.4 percent in February 2017. The February rate was, however, significantly higher than the 4.7 percent rate posted in February 2016.

In the aforementioned press release from the Texas Workforce Commission, TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar stated, “Texas employers added 222,400 jobs over the year in the diverse Texas economy. TWC will continue to focus on the workforce needs of these growing industries and build partnerships that develop a world-class workforce for Texas employers.”

The release further stated, “The Education and Health Services industry recorded the largest private-industry employment gain over the month with 11,700 jobs added. Leisure and Hospitality employment grew by 4,400 jobs in February and Manufacturing employment expanded by 3,900 jobs.”

TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs added, “Texas employers continue to keep our state’s economy strong with private-sector employment expanding over the year with an overall job-growth of 189,200, including 12,300 jobs added in February. TWC is committed to offering programs that allow employers to provide customized training to meet the skills needed for today’s competitive job market.”

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