County jobless rate well below state average

May labor numbers second-best in area

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

June 22, 2008 - The unemployment rate in Hopkins County remained one of the lowest in the area in May and almost a full percentage point below the statewide average, according to Texas Workforce Commission estimates released this week.

As a whole, Texas mirrored a nationwide weakening of the labor market last month, with job growth slowing and unemployment rate rising to 4.5 percent, up 0.4 percentage points from April.

Hopkins County's job market was also trimmed, but only slightly, with the number of people working dropping from 16,623 in April to 16,613 -- a loss of only 10 workers.

And with the announcement by Owens Foods of a 9 a.m. Monday groundbreaking to start an expansion project expected to add as many as 120 jobs at the Sulphur Springs plant, the future looks even better.

That's not to say the labor picture for Hopkins County looks bleak to begin with. The county's unemployment rate last month was 3.8 percent, which is 0. percentage points less than the state average.

The county's jobless rate last month was a bit higher than the 3.5 percent in May of 2007, but even that cloud carries the proverbial silver lining -- the number of people working in the county also rose in that time span, from 16,466 one year ago. That's a rise of 147 jobs in a 12-month period.

Another bright point: Of the eight counties in the immediate area, Hopkins County trailed only one in terms of unemployment rates.

Hopkins County's 3.8 percent rate last month was bested only by Franklin County, which had a 3.4 percent unemployment rate.

Titus County also recorded 3.8 percent unemployment last month, but Mount Pleasant businesses and other employers there also kept a smaller payroll. Titus County's 13,936 employed people trails Hopkins County by 2,677.

The other five nearby counties all posted jobless rates above 4 percent in May, and all counties also saw the unemployment rates rise from April. That's a traditional trend, however, reflecting a larger number of people joining the civilian labor force -- the number of people either working or actively seeking jobs -- as public schools and colleges end their spring semester and summer nears.

Wood and Delta counties were next on the list of lowest jobless rates in the area at 4.4 percent. The rates in both counties were higher than in May of 2007, but like Hopkins County, both also saw the total number of employed people climb over the 12 months.

Rains County's unemployment rate last month stood at 4.5 percent, a considerable climb from the 4 percent recorded in April. Rains County's numbers also reflected a downturn in both the civilian labor force and the number of people working, which dropped from 5,148 in April to 5,025 last month. Compared to May of 2007, however, Rains County's total number of employed people is up by 101.

Following Rains was Hunt County at 4.6 percent, up from 4.1 percent in April and 4.2 percent in May of 2007. Hunt County, which has the largest number of people working in the area at 37,639, was affected by a growing number of people looking for work from April to May, when there were almost 200 more people in the CLF but jobs declined by 5.

Lamar County had the highest unemployment rate of the eight counties at 4.7 percent, up from 4.2 percent in April and 4.4 percent in May of 2007. Lamar County's numbers were impacted by a rise in the CLF of 116 people from April to May, which the number of people working was unchanged. From May of 2007, however, Lamar County has seen the number of people working rise from 23,163 to 23,847, giving that county the second-largest number of workers in the area.

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