by , Texas Tribune

Texas’ unemployment rate continues to drop to record lows, with the state’s rate for May hitting a seasonally adjusted 3.5%, the Texas Workforce

Commission announced Friday. That’s the lowest level since the federal government began collecting the data series used to calculate the rate in 1976.

The state’s 3.5% unemployment rate breaks the record low of 3.7% Texas set last month.

Locally, Reagan County also continues its downward trend in unemployment rate with a 2.0% preliminary rate for May.

April showed a stronger number for Reagan County with a 1.8% rate.

Big Lake Economic Development Director Gloria Baggett said having such a low unemployment rate is a double-edged sword for the local economy.

“There are advantages and disadvantages when a community experiences low unemployment rates,” Baggett said. “The advantage is everyone is working and monthly incomes are good.  The disadvantage means there is no workforce for business expansion or new business to come to our community.”

Baggett said hotels, restaurants and retail stores have a difficult time staffing during periods of low unemployment due to higher oilfield wages.

“Currently Big Lake has a major shortage in these areas which makes it extremely difficult to attract business to Big Lake,” Baggett said. “One of the goals I would like to see the BLEDC set is to work with our local businesses and RCISD in a workforce development program.”

Baggett said such a program would help the local economy with nurses, mechanics, plumbers and electricians.

“It would give our youth some professions to  consider if college is not for them,” Baggett said.

The only time Reagan County fell below April’s mark in the last 30 years  was in 2008 when Reagan County put together four months below 2.0% with the lowest figure hitting 1.6% in April of that year.

Reagan County saw a strong spike in the rate in 2010 when it jumped up to 7.4% in January of that year.

The rate slowly decreased to 2.5% in December of 2014 before jumping back up to 7.1% in August of 2016.

The rate has seen a steady decrease to its current level over the past three years.

Over the month of May, the state added 19,600 non-farm jobs, according to seasonally adjusted data. Jobs categorized as professional and business services topped all other categories, adding 8,100 positions. Education and health services saw the second-highest rise, adding 4,500 jobs in May.

Among more than two dozen metropolitan statistical areas in Texas, the Midland metro area recorded May’s lowest non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at 1.7%, according to the Workforce Commission, while the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metro area had the highest rate at 5%.

Mike Davis, an economist at Southern Methodist University, said the record low unemployment rate isn’t necessarily surprising considering “how fast the Texas economy has been growing.” Though the Cox School of Business lecturer said he stays away from predictions or forecasts, he said the overall outlook for the state looks positive.

“There’s nothing on the horizon that gives me any reason to think that it would change,” Davis said.

Wildcat Editor J.L. Mankin contributed to this article with local perspective on Unemployment Rates.

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