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Rural Central Texas counties are seeing their lowest unemployment rates since the pandemic started

Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area reports that its 9-county area had an unemployment rate of 2.8% in March, dropping from 3.4% in February.

AUSTIN, Texas — More people are finding jobs in Central Texas, causing unemployment numbers to dip to new lows. Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area (WSRCA), which represents the 9-county area surrounding Travis County, reports that its most recent unemployment numbers are the lowest they have been since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

The unadjusted unemployment rate for the area in March 2022 was 2.8%, dropping from the 3.4% rate recorded in February 2022, according to figures released Tuesday by the Texas Workforce Commission. The last time the area saw a 2.8% unemployment rate was in February 2020.

WSRCA leaders said the 2.8% unemployment rate in the 9-county area represented 17,282 residents seeking employment, with more than 35,425 open jobs across all industries.

The unemployment rate of 2.8% for the rural capital area is lower than the 3.9% statewide unemployment rate and the 3.8% nationwide unemployment rate.

Due to the low unemployment rate, there is a small group of people looking for jobs and a lot of companies looking to hire, making it a jobseeker’s market. But this does make it tough for businesses.

“If you're an employer that's looking to hire people, it's become more difficult,” said Paul Fletcher, CEO of WSRCA. “So, wages are going up, people are more scarce. Employers are being more creative in how they structure their jobs, how they advertise those jobs and how they recruit to bring people into their employment.”

Fletcher said his best advice for employers is to think about how they can manage their workforce in a way that benefits the business but is also attractive to people looking for flexibility. An example is that many people right now are looking for jobs where they can still have remote work opportunities.

Industries that continue to recruit the most people in Central Texas are manufacturing, health care, construction and transportation. With more manufacturing facilities, like Tesla and Samsung, coming to the area, Fletcher believes that manufacturing will continue to be a dominant industry in Central Texas.

“That's going to be the type of job I think we will see here in Central Texas for a long time to come,” Fletcher said. “And they're very good jobs, high paying. They don't take a long time to get credentialed in, and they all offer some type of career advancement within the industry and in all of those industries.”

To get to many of the higher-paying jobs in industries like health care and manufacturing, you do not need a four-year degree. Those jobs can be obtained through certification and training programs that are offered by local workforce solutions offices. Then once you get your foot in the door, you can work your way up.

“We've been talking a lot about the middle-skills gap, which is those jobs that require skills that are beyond a high school degree but less than a four-year college degree,” Fletcher said. “That's where we see the biggest growth coming in our area around industries like advanced manufacturing and health care.”

Fletcher said many skills people have can help them get to a higher tier in their current industry or can be applied to other industries.

"We can help you kind of do an inventory of your skills and see how those skills transfer to a different type of career in a different industry, or maybe within the same industry that you're in,” Fletcher said. “But I think everybody owes it to themselves to look at what their skills are, see what those skills are worth and how they can work those skills up to be useful in another industry or another occupation."

The industry that saw the biggest increase in employment over the past month was hospitality. Fletcher said this is due to the summer season, hotels and restaurants seeing a comeback as COVID-19 has improved and the flexibility of hours and days that hospitality allows for.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the top industries where people are currently filing for unemployment are temporary help services, school and employee bus transportation, food service contractors, oil and gas pipeline construction and full-service restaurants.

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