Texas adds 67,600 jobs in December 2020: Amarillo maintains lowest unemployment rate

The close of 2020 was accompanied by a modest improvement in Texas’ employment condition — dropping nearly a percentage point from November to 7.2 percent. According to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), over 67,000 private sector jobs were added to the rolls.

Texas still lags behind the national unemployment rate of 6.5 percent and its own December 2019 rate of 3.3 percent.

TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel stated, “The private sector job growth we saw in December is promising.”

Amarillo and Bryan-College Station maintain their spots at the top of the state’s lowest unemployment rate list at 4.9 percent and five percent, respectively. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission and Odessa still struggle mightily, each well above 11 percent.

Odessa is affected most by the floundering, but slowly stabilizing, oil and gas industry hit hard by travel demand plunge wrought by the pandemic. Mining & Logging sector employment is down 18 percent compared to December 2019. This has spurred a projected $950 million budget shortfall for this biennium in addition to other consumption tax fallout.

Compounding these oil and gas troubles is the obstruction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would more efficiently connect oil in Alberta, Canada to refineries in Port Arthur. President Biden revoked the project’s permit on his first day in office. On top of that is Biden’s moratorium on drilling on federal lands, a move which if made permanent could cost Texas 120,000 jobs.

But bright spots still appear. Aaron Demerson, TWC commissioner for employers, said in the release, “Texas employers continue to remain steadfast as December marks the fifth consecutive month of private sector job growth, which is a testament to their hard work and dedication.”

The Trade, Transportation, & Utilities sector added 20,100 jobs while Professional & Business Services added 27,000.

The Education & Health Services and Leisure & Hospitality sectors each added over 6,000 jobs. The latter contains businesses such as bars and restaurants which faced a sharp blow during the pandemic both due to government closure orders and the natural regression of commerce from the pandemic.

The 87th Legislative Session has begun and on its plate rests not only budget woes but unemployment and coronavirus uncertainty. The House’s preliminary budget features a near-$200 million increase to the TWC’s budget due to the vast expansion of its burden shouldered during this pandemic.