By Michael Hutchins Democrat Herald
Despite a growing workforce and plenty of jobs, employers in the region are still struggling to find candidates, local labor officials said this week.
The latest unemployment report from the Texas Workforce Commission lists the Sherman-Denison unemployment rate at 3.8% – in what is considered full employment – for the month of June.
“When I look at these numbers, I see that our civilian workforce has increased in some cases, but those actually working are a different story,” said Janie Bates, executive director of Workforce Solutions Texoma. “We may have had more people in the workforce, but fewer of them were working and I don’t really have an answer to any of that.”
The latest unemployment report, which was released on Friday, lists Sherman-Denison’s current unemployment rate at 3.8%, or 4.1% when seasonally adjusted. By comparison, the rate was 5.1% a year ago, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the unemployment rate has fallen over the past year, the size of the region’s labor market has grown, with 1,300 new workers entering the market. However, this increase in the labor force has offered little relief to a job base hungry for more workers.
In many ways, the local market mirrors the larger market after the pandemic. At the height of the pandemic, many workers left the workforce, switched to remote work or changed jobs in what Bates described as the great shakeup. This left many positions vacant and unfilled.
In order to incentivize workers to fill these available positions, many employers have increased their wages and benefits. This has allowed some workers to skip what are traditionally entry-level jobs in food service, retail and related industries.
“Texas set a new all-time employment record in June by adding 82,500 jobs, the largest monthly job increase this year,” said TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel. “This kind of sustainable economic success is only possible when employers and job seekers have maximum opportunities to reach their full potential, and TWC works hard to support those opportunities.”
Despite persistent vacancies, Bates noted that there are signs that the unemployed workforce might not be as inactive as it seems. Bates said there has been a strong demand for training resources through WST in recent months as some workers seek training in new areas.
Currently, healthcare and trucking training are in high demand, but more advanced manufacturing and specialized training are expected to increase with the expansion of Texas Instruments and GlobiTech, Bates said.
“I think we’re going to be very busy helping them find people to go to work and retraining them,” she said. “There is going to be a need for further development of current staff to work in the new facilities.”
However, other jobs might take longer to fill.
“I really think that for us to be able to fill these positions with our current population, we’re going to have to start thinking outside the box,” Bates said.
“We have people who have left the workforce during the pandemic and have not returned for various reasons, I do not know of a single solution, but I think if we start looking at a different model for our workplace , we might be able to attract more people. »
Some employers might turn to alternative workdays to attract workers and applicants. This could include hours that allow a worker to maintain hours when their child is in school, for example. Other ideas include targeting retired workers for part-time positions, Bates added.
The local unemployment rate for June was on pace with the national average and below state averages of 3.8% and 3.4%, respectively.