The Dallas Morning News

Texas adds 99,000 jobs as recovery revives

Broad March gain follows dip after freeze; jobless rate still 6.9%

- By DOM DIFURIO Staff Writer ddifurio@dallasnews.com

The Texas unemployme­nt rate remained unchanged in March, but employers added 99,000 jobs, according to data released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployme­nt rate held steady at 6.9% as the number of Texans in the labor force grew. In Dallas-fort Worth, the unemployme­nt rate fell from 6.8% in February to 6.5% last month. North Texas employers added 19,500 jobs in March.

“Jobs rebounded strongly in March as COVID-19 cases and hospitaliz­ations fell sharply and mobility increased,” said Keith R. Phillips, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas assistant vice president and senior economist. “Job gains were broadbased across industries, with particular strength in constructi­on, leisure and hospitalit­y, and oil and gas jobs.”

The constructi­on industry added 19,100 jobs last month. The hard-hit leisure and hospitalit­y sector, which includes hotels and entertainm­ent businesses, posted a gain of 23,100 compared with the preceding month.

Growth in the constructi­on sector was driven by continuing strong demand for singlefami­ly homes and repairs associated with February’s epic freeze, Phillips said. He said gains in the number of people vaccinated against the virus probably led to a rise in leisure and hospitalit­y employment.

Despite the gains, the jobless rates in D-FW and Texas remained above the nation’s 6.2% rate in March.

Compared with a year earlier, when the pre-pandemic unemployme­nt rate was less than 5%, the region is continuing to recover from one of the worst job loss cycles in the state’s history. Closures of businesses deemed nonessenti­al caused mass layoffs and led to a loss of more than a quarter of a million jobs in D-FW in April 2020 and more in subsequent months.

The economic forecastin­g firm Beacon Economics described Texas’ job gain in March as the “strongest labor market jump in months.”

“February was a tough month for the state on a number of fronts, so it was good to see the labor market bounce back in such a strong way in March,” Taner Osman, research manager at Beacon Eco

nomics, said in a statement. “And with the vaccine rollout continuing at a strong pace, there should be no stopping the state’s labor market recovery in the coming months.”

North Texas’ employment increase is a reversal from job losses in February, which economists attributed to the disastrous winter storm and widespread power outages that gripped the entire state. With February’s job losses an outlier, Texas has added jobs in 10 of the last 11 months.

Phillips said that the state has added 142,200 jobs yearto-date and that high-frequency data tracking by the Dallas Fed suggests that growth is continuing this month.

“As long as COVID-19 cases and hospitaliz­ations continue to decline, we should see further strengthen­ing of job growth going forward,” he said.

The Dallas Fed now projects 816,400 new jobs in Texas by year’s end.

Fewer workers filed unemployme­nt insurance claims in Texas in the first week of April than in previous weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Texas saw one of the nation’s biggest drops in unemployme­nt claims for the week.

Still, more than 1 million Texans were unemployed in March.

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