For the third consecutive month, Houston area employers have been adding jobs, a sign that Houston’s economy may be stabilizing.
In November, Houston employers created 9,300 jobs, according to data released today by the Texas Workforce Commission. Most of the new jobs come from retail trade. Government, leisure and hospitality, and education and health services also added positions.
“Three months of good data is indeed encouraging,” said Barton Smith, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston.
“It’s nice to see what’s unfolding,” he said, adding that it appears overall job losses ended in the July-August period. Since then, he said, it looks like employment is flat to up slightly and the November numbers seem to confirm that.
In another sign the Houston’s economy is showing signs of strength, the number of people filing for unemployment benefits is not nearly as high as it was earlier this year.
In November, 22,708 Houston area workers filed for benefits. While that’s 24.7 percent higher than a year earlier, it’s essentially the first time all year that the surge of jobless claims on a year-over-year basis ran less than 50 percent.
The exceptions were September and October, when year-to-year data was distorted by a jump in claims during those months in 2008 when Hurricane Ike caused temporary job losses. That has made it harder than usual to assess how the Houston economy is doing,
“We’re getting a little better picture,” said Joel Wagher, labor market analyst for Workforce Solutions, which manages employment services and training for the area.
Houston’s unemployment rate dipped to 8.2 percent in November, the commission reported. In October the rate was 8.4 percent.
The statewide rate also declined in November which the commission attributed to an increase in the number of Texans who found jobs.
The jobless rate in Texas dropped to 8 percent in November, compared to 8.3 percent the previous month. The Texas unemployment rate is still well below the November U.S. jobless rate of 10 percent.
While Texas and U.S. data are adjusted for seasonal variations, data from Houston is not seasonally adjusted.
“Texas employers added a significant number of jobs in most industries during October and November,” said Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken. “Job growth coupled with a lower unemployment rate indicate movement in a positive direction for Texas.”