County maintains 2nd-lowest jobless rate in the area

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

Sept. 5, 2008 - The federal government reported today that the nation's unemployment rate hit a five-year high in August, with employers cutting an estimated 84,000 jobs. The Labor Department report issued this morning put the jobless rate at 6.1 percent in August, a number blamed on the increasing toll the housing, credit and financial crises are taking on the economy.

Hmm. Maybe more people should move to Hopkins County.

While local unemployment figures for August haven't been tallied yet, the numbers for July show a vastly lower jobless rate for Hopkins County than the nation as a whole.

And conventional wisdom suggests the numbers will get better before they get worse.

The Texas Workforce Commission estimated the Hopkins County unemployment rate at 4.4 percent in July, up 0.2 percentage points from one year before.

The rate was also 0.2 percentage points higher than in June of this year, when unemployment was about 1 1/2 percentage points lower than the national rate.

The news is not all rosy, of course. The number of people working fell from 16,762 in June to 16,690 in July. That was a bigger decrease than in the civilian labor force -- the number of people working or actively looking for jobs -- which only dropped by about 41 people.

But the July figures also show some significant job growth from one year prior. The estimates indicated that 289 more Hopkins County citizens were working in July of this year than in July 2007.

The outlook for the near future, if past trends hold true, is for the Hopkins County unemployment rate to drop from July to August. Over the last two years, the rate has fallen an average of 0.02 percentage points from July to August. That's generally attributed to the loss of workers in the civilian labor force who return to school at summer's end. The number of people with jobs in the county usually drops from July to August, but not as much as the CLF decreases.

In 2006 and 2007, for example the reduction in the CLF has been the basic explanation of why unemployment dropped from July to August. In the two years combined, the county actually saw the number of people not working drop an average of about 35 per year.

The Hopkins County jobless rate for July 2007 was the second-lowest among the eight closest counties. Only Franklin and Titus counties didn't see unemployment rates increase, and only three counties had more working people than Hopkins County -- Hunt, Lamar and Wood.

Franklin County had the lowest jobless rate in the area at 3.9 percent, a drop from an even 4 percent in july 2007. Titus County was tied with Hopkins County at 4.4 percent rate, the same as one year before.

Those three were the only area counties with unemployment rates below 5 percent.

Wood County was third in the area at 5.1 percent, followed by Hunt County's 5.2 percent, which was tied with Lamar County. Next in line was Rains County with 5.3 percent unemployment. Delta County had the highest jobless rate of all at 5.4 percent, an increase of 0.07 percent points from July of 2007.

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