Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary for February 2015. Let’s recap the highlights from the report for the states with the largest populations and economies.
In February, net nonfarm job creation in Texas slowed to 7,100 compared with the 2014 average of 33,950 per month marking the 53rd straight month of positive job creation. Lower oil prices contributed to 3,500 fewer net jobs in the oil and gas sector weighing down employment but lower gasoline prices contributed to more job creation in other sectors such as a 16,300 jobs added in the retail trade, transportation, and utilities industry. Overall, net job growth was 357,300 during the last twelve months creating more opportunities for all Texans to prosper.
The first figure shows Texas’ unemployment rate remains at least 1.2 percentage points lower than any of the other rates. February was the 98th consecutive month that the Lone Star State’s unemployment rate has been at or below the national average. You might ask, “Is this from job creation or fewer searching for a job?”
This lower unemployment rate feat is even more impressive when you consider how many Americans have stopped looking for work after an unsuccessful job search. While the nation’s reported 5.5 percent unemployment rate in February is near what some consider “full employment,” it doesn’t tell the whole story as noted by the drop in the nation’s labor force participation rate in the figure below. However, the same may not be said for Texas with the rate near it’s pre-recession level.
Digging further, the third figure presents data showing that Texas’ share of the population employed has rebounded since the Great Recession and is substantially higher than the national average and other states. Given the false signal a lower unemployment rate might send from fewer searching for a job, the employment-population ratio provides valuable information. This might change from employment preferences, such as men or women deciding not to work to stay home with children or go back to school, but interestingly Texas far exceeds these other entities.
The fourth figure shows that annual job creation in Texas has been robust relative to these other states over much of the last decade-plus. However, several states are finally catching up to Texas in job creation, which is good for Americans.
The last two figures show that Texas has been the nation’s primary job creator since the last national recession started in December 2007. Also notice that total employment in Texas didn’t decline during the 2008-09 recession when oil prices dropped substantially more than they have in the last seven months—another indication that the current oil price drop may not cause severe consequences. Even the nonfarm job losses were merely a blip compared with the rest of the nation.
Bottom line: Texas’ job creation moderated in February as lower oil prices starts to take a toll but remained positive for yet another month. It’s good to see valuable strides to boost the Texas model’s success were taken recently in the Texas Senate by passing what could be the largest tax cut of $4.6 billion in the state’s history.