Unemployment

With the economy booming, Ernesto Martinez can barely keep up with all the construction work coming into the small drywall company he owns. He's part of a historic wave of Latino prosperity in America.

It wasn't always like this. Martinez remembers when he was 17. He had $120 to his name, and it was all in his pocket. It's how much he got paid for his first job in the U.S., as a mover. He says he stood there, mesmerized, in front of a shop window at the mall.

Martinez was looking at a pair of Air Jordans. They cost around $100.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

At 3 percent, the unemployment rate in Central Texas is one of the lowest in the country. But most of the jobs driving that low rate require higher skilled workers, and roughly two-thirds of job seekers here don't fall into that category.

The nation's unemployment rate moved up a bit in the month of July, to 6.2 percent, as more Americans who'd been sitting on the sidelines started looking for work, according to the latest monthly report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 209,000 jobs, a bit less than economists had expected.

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The global boom in energy production driven by fracking and horizontal drilling is leading to a shortage of skilled workers. A new report by the human resources firm Mercer says two-thirds of oil and gas companies are now poaching employees from their competitors.

"The industry seems inclined when an individual is trained and developed by a competitor to, especially in the first five years of employment, go after that key talent, as opposed to training and developing their own,"  says Philip Tenenbaum, a senior partner at Mercer. 

He says in some cases, the practice has become quite overt.  

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

Texans applying for unemployment benefits will be subject to a new drug screening procedure in a program scheduled to take effect Feb. 1. But the Texas Workforce Commission said it will not be able to start the program on the state’s timetable because the United States Labor Department has not set the required parameters.

As proponents of the program raise concerns about the Labor Department’s progress, the Workforce Commission is preparing for the testing without knowing who will be tested.

A business in Austin is laying off hundreds of employees. OneWest Bank has notified the Texas Workforce Commission that intents to lay off more than 700 employees in Austin.

The California-based company is a mortgage services provider with offices in the Domain complex.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Update (May 25, 2013):  
Both the House and Senate have passed this bill, sending it to Gov. Rick Perry's desk for his approval.


Original story:
The Texas House split on a couple of bills that would drug test recipients of state aid. A midnight deadline passed before lawmakers could vote on a bill that would drug test recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

But earlier in the day lawmakers did pass testing for unemployment benefits.

flickr.com/jimnix

Austin’s economy added 30,500 jobs over the last year. The latest employment report shows the jobless rate dropped to 5.1 percent last month from 5.6 percent in April 2012. 

The recent job growth happened as more people were moving to the Austin-area looking for work. The civilian labor force grew by more than 27,000 in the past 12 months.

Latinos May Need More Than a 'Miracle' to Prosper in Texas

May 10, 2013
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

President Obama brought a message of economic recovery when he visited Austin yesterday, the first stop in his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.” Latinos in the U.S., however, are trailing behind the national average in unemployment. So how are they’re doing when it comes to finding work in the home of the “Texas miracle?"

(Most recent update: 10 a.m. ET.)

The nation's jobless rate edged down to 7.5 percent in April from 7.6 percent in March and employers added 165,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Austin’s unemployment rate went down slightly from February to March – to 5.3 percent. The state rate was about one point higher (6.4 percent, seasonally adjudged; 6.3 percent, not seasonally adjusted).

Both numbers are well below the national rate for March: 7.6 percent.

Both the state and local rates are also well below what they were in March 2012 (7 percent and 6 percent, respectively).

flickr.com/kandyjaxx

The City of Austin is hosting its third annual Career Expo today at the Palmer Center.

The event will feature over one hundred employers and local agencies including  Austin Fire Department, Austin Independent School District, Dell, Time Warner Cable, Grande Communications and Whole Foods.

Last year more than 3,500 people attended the Career Expo that offers almost 2,000 job openings. 

Garreth Wilcock/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/gjmj/5793428199/

New home construction is up by 27 percent in the Austin area, according to MetroStudy. The real estate tracking firm says there were 1,952 starts in the first three months of the year. That’s 413 more than the same quarter last year.

MetroStudy’s Austin market director Madison Inselmann says the surge in new building is helping to lift pay for construction workers.

There were 236,000 jobs added to payrolls in February — many more than expected — and the jobless rate unexpectedly dropped by two-tenths of a point, to 7.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

KUT News

A Travis County Commissioner says local prosperity is shadowed by rising poverty. In this week’s PolitiFact check-in, KUT’s Emily Donahue spoke to Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman’s PolitiFact Texas.

PolitiFact tackled a claim by Travis County commissioner Sarah Eckhardt who, in an email, said conditions are tough despite "present prosperity."

What's today's big jobs report say?

The U.S. economy lost 2.8 million jobs jobs in January.

What?!

Don't panic. The U.S. economy loses millions of jobs every January, in good times and bad, largely because tons of seasonal holiday jobs always wind down after Christmas.

So if you set aside the normal, seasonal stuff, how is the job market doing?

flickr.com/devar/

Austin’s unemployment rose from 4.9 to 5 percent in December, while Texas’s overall unemployment dropped to 6.1 percent from 7.4 percent last year.

Mark Lavergne, spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission, said the change in unemployment in Austin is a slight change. What is more significant, he said, was the unemployment change in Austin and Texas in the past year. Austin’s unemployment has dropped to 5 percent from 6.1 a year ago, while Texas’s unemployment rate has fallen from 7.4 percent to 6.1 in the past year.

There were 155,000 jobs added to public and private payrolls in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning.

That's right in line with economists' expectations and is another sign of steady, though modest, growth in employment. In November, employers added an estimated 161,000 jobs. The average monthly gain in 2012 was 153,000 jobs, BLS says. That's the same average as in 2011.

Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. Jobless Claims Went Up; So Two Out Of Three Reports Were Positive:

There were 372,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, up by 10,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration says. What's more, that previous week's total was revised up from the previous estimate of 350,000.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The number of state employees let go this year was down dramatically compared to 2011, according to a report from the State Auditor's Office. But that’s mainly because so many people lost their jobs last year, after lawmakers slashed the two-year state budget by $14 billion. 

Those cuts led to a round of government layoffs: 1,225 people lost their jobs last year as the result of a "reduction in force," the bureaucratic term used to label job cuts caused by budget reductions. This year, that number was 96. A lot of people were fired for other reasons, but the number of state employees "involuntarily" laid off still dropped by more than 15 percent compared to last year.

There were 350,000 first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, down 12,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration reports. That's the lowest level since early March 2008.

The agency adds that "the 4-week moving average," which tends to smooth out some of the volatility that comes with the weekly figures, "was 356,750, a decrease of 11,250 from the previous week's revised average of 368,000."

(Revised @ 12 p.m. ET)

The final monthly jobs report before Tuesday's general election contained something for both President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney to work into their closing arguments to voters.

For Obama, it was the news that the economy in October created significantly more jobs — 171,000 — than many economists had forecast. And the Labor Department revised upward the job numbers for September and August, suggesting even more underlying strength in the economy than earlier appeared to be the case.

The nation's unemployment rate edged up to 7.9 percent in October from 7.8 percent in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

But private and public employers added 171,000 jobs to their payrolls — nearly 50,000 more than economists had expected.

So the news is somewhat mixed: While the jobless rate remained stuck near 8 percent, job growth was better than forecast.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

Update: Oct. 25, 2012 at 9 a.m.:

After airing this story on Monday, listeners have been wondering what happened to the Yount family.  The first thing was that a listener drove by the parking lot where they were and gave them a cell phone.  Others have called asking for ways in which they can help.  KUT now has a way to get in touch with the Younts.  If you have any interest in helping them, you can contact KUT.

Original Story posted on KUT.org Oct. 23, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.:

The city of Miami claims to have taken almost half of its homeless population off the streets in the last 10 years. In Austin, where homeless services are stretched to the limit, the City Council is looking for new solutions. Last night, council members met with officials from Miami. The challenges of one local homeless family that is struggling on the streets show how complex the problem can be.

The news that the nation's jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August immediately led some of President Obama's critics to charge the the books had been cooked to help his reelection campaign.

http://www.flickr.com/niwru/

The national unemployment rate decreased to 7.8 percent in September. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. added 114,00 jobs last month. This means the number of unemployed in the U.S. is now 12.1 million. It's the first time this year that unemployment has fallen below 8 percent.

So what does this mean for Austin? As KUT News reported last month, Austin added 5,900 jobs in August, and local unemployment dropped to 5.9 percent, well below the national average.

But what about the already employed in Austin? According to staffing agency Robert Half International, technology professionals are expected to salary increases of about 5.3 percent. Administrative staff may see salaries rise by 3.5 percent. And accounting and finance salaries could jump 3.3 percent.

flickr.com/stuseeger

The Austin area experienced the greatest jobs gain in Texas last month, as unemployment dropped half a percentage point.  

In August, the Austin area added 5,900 jobs, according to the Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board.  This brings the Austin unemployment rate down from 6.4 percent in July to 5.9 percent in August. This is third time this year that the unemployment rate has dropped below six percent. Prior to April 2012, Austin had not seen an unemployment rate below six percent since 2009.

Tiffany Daniels, of Workforce Solutions Capital Area explains where Austin saw its biggest gains:

In professional and business services, we saw gains of 2,300 hires in August.  That is one of our strongest segments [in Austin], and again, expect to see continued growth in those areas. Local government, retail trade and financial activities also saw significant increases of 1300 and 900, respectively.

Austin’s unemployment rate stayed steady last month while the state rate went up slightly.

Austin’s unemployment rate was at 6.4 percent in both June and July.

"All in all it's not a bad picture but we are at a bit of a loss to explain some of the job losses that occurred during July, especially at the same time where we saw an increase in the numbers of the civilian labor force – which, again, is attributable to population growth," says Capital Area Workforce Solutions Executive Director Alan Miller. "But some of the numbers just don't quite make sense. And they're going to require us to dig a little deeper and find out what was going on in July." 

Losing your job is rarely good. Not being able to find one for months can be disastrous for individuals, and bad for society as well. Yet during the recent recession and the current anemic recovery, more people in the U.S. have been unemployed for longer than at any time since 1948.

Of all Americans who were unemployed in June, almost half had been without a job for 27 weeks or longer. In other words, 5.4 million people have been jobless for more than half a year.

Texas State Library and Archives, flickr.com/tslac

Unemployment Benefits Changing for Some Texans

The Texas Workforce Commission announced on Tuesday that certain groups of unemployed Texans won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits after 60 weeks starting in July.

Previously, claimants could receive benefits for up to 73 weeks. Those already receiving benefits based on the older criteria will continue to be eligible. The commission estimates that about 22,453 individuals may be affected going forward.

The changes come due to Texas’ improving unemployment rate, resulting in revisions to the length of Emergency Unemployment Compensation offered to job searchers.

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