Local jobless rates drop: RGV still highest in state

HARLINGEN — The city’s unemployment rate is dropping, again, and it isn’t just slightly.

According to numbers on the Texas Workforce website, Harlingen’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 percent in December. That is down 0.5, from November’s 5.8 percent. That is well below the January 2015 rate of 6.3 percent.

Harlingen’s rate is closing in on the rate in the state of Texas of 4.2 percent. The country’s rate is 4.8 percent.

“Texas finished 2015 on a strong note in December with employers adding 166,900 jobs over the year across a diverse range of industries,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “Our state offers many advantages to employers who choose to do business in Texas and we are pleased employers continue to create opportunities for Texas workers.”

Overall, unemployment numbers fell in the Rio Grande Valley.

The Brownsville-Harlingen Metropolitan area rate dropped to 6.9 percent. While that is lower than November’s number of 7.1, it is still more than the 6.7 percent tally in October. In January, 2015, the number was 7.8 percent.

Willacy County received some much-needed good news.

The rate dropped from 12.8 in November to 12.1 in December. However, that is still higher than the 2015 low of 11.1 percent in February.

Hidalgo County numbers registered at 7.8 percent, down from 8.0 in November and from 8.3 in January 2015.

Overall, while the numbers are down for the RGV December over November, they are still the highest in the state. Only the Beaumont-Port Arthur area is even close at 6.5 percent.

The lowest rate in all the state is in Amarillo at 2.9 percent. Lubbock and Austin are a close second at 3.1 percent.

Professional and business services employment surged in December with the addition of 12,500 positions. This marked the industry’s largest over-the-month gain since November 2014. The education and health services industry recorded the second largest employment gain over the month in Texas with 7,400 jobs added.

That marked 21 consecutive months of growth within the industry and a total of 66,700 jobs added since January 2015.

“Private-sector employment was strong over the year with the overall job growth of 141,300 jobs in December,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughes. “Texas employers continue to be strong and resilient in providing employment and training opportunities.”