By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – The January unemployment rate in Texas held steady as the Lone Star State’s economy added 51,300 non-farm jobs during the month. The state has also added jobs in 21 of the last 22 months, according to data released by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) released its monthly unemployment statistics for December 2016 on Friday, Jan. 20 and the data showed the state’s unemployment rate staying at the same 4.8 percent mark posted in December of 2016. The January mark was slightly lower than the January 2016 unemployment rate posted which came in at 4.9 percent.

Statewide, the highest unemployment level recorded was nine 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 rates, at 3.4 percent, were in the Amarillo and Lubbock MSAs. The nearest MSA in the immediate area is Tyler, which came in at 4.7 percent for the month of November.

The Texas unemployment rate was the same as the national jobless rate of 4.8 percent and marked the 118th consecutive month the Texas rate has been at or below the national level.

While the state numbers held steady, the unemployment rate for all of the surrounding counties showed an increase.

In Houston County, the unemployment rate for December came in at 4.5 percent, while January’s rate increased and came in at 4.8 percent for the month. The January 2017 rate was also higher than the 4.7 percent unemployment rate posted in January 2016.

The unemployment rate in Anderson County also showed an increase as the numbers went from 3.9 percent in December to 4.1 percent in January. The January 2017 rate, however, was slightly lower than the 4.3 percent rate posted in January 2016.

To the south, in Trinity County, the month-to-month rate showed an increase from December to January as the rate went from six percent to 6.6 percent. The 6.6 percent rate for January 2017 was also higher than the 6.4 percent rate from a year ago.

The unemployment rate in Cherokee County increased from December to January as it inched upward from a mark of 5.1 percent to 5.6 percent. The January 2017 unemployment rate was also slightly higher than in January of 2016 when the county’s rate stood at 5.3 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 six percent in December to 6.4 percent in January. The Angelina County unemployment rate for January 2017 was also higher than in January of 2016, when the rate stood at 5.9 percent.

On a month-to- month basis Leon County posted the highest rate in the region. The statistical data indicated an increase from 6.5 percent in December 2016 to 7.8 percent in January 2017. The recent figures also revealed an increase from the January 2016 unemployment rate of 6.4 percent.

Rounding out the area counties, Madison County continued the trend and also showed an increase in the unemployment rate. The rate was 5.3 in December 2016 and crept upwards to 5.7 percent in January 2017. The rate was also higher than the 4.9 percent rate posted in January 2016.

In the aforementioned press release from the Texas Workforce Commission, TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar stated, “Texas employers and our talented workforce started 2017 on a high note with the addition of 51,300 jobs in January, Employers in a diverse range of industries have added 225,300 jobs over the year, a reflection of the many competitive advantages Texas offers to employers, including a strong business climate and an expanding and highly skilled workforce.”

The release further stated, “The Professional and Business Services industry recorded the largest private-industry employment gain over the month with 14,000 jobs added. Trade, Transportation, and Utilities employment grew by 8,100 jobs in January, and Manufacturing employment expanded by 7,300 jobs.”

TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs added, “Private-sector employment was strong over the year with an increase in overall jobs of 183,100, and 45,900 jobs added in January. Texas employers continue to strengthen the job market by expanding employment and training opportunities.”

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