North Texas Daily

Unemployment rate below state of Texas average

Unemployment rate below state of Texas average

Unemployment rate below state of Texas average
February 10
22:58 2014

Obed Manuel// Senior Staff Writer

Advertising senior Melissa Gonzalez said she is used to working up to 40 hours per week because she has been working in retail since she was 15 years old.

Ever since World Market, her former employer, closed a little more than two weeks ago, Gonzalez has had to get used to being unemployed.

“It’s been nice being able to focus on school, but it’s weird having more free time than I’m used to,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez is part of the 4.2 percent of Denton residents who are currently unemployed, a rate that is lower than the state average of 6 percent, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

The rate fell from 4.8 percent at the end of December, according to recently released data from the TWC.

Erica Sullivan, economic analyst for the city of Denton, said some of the 6,000 businesses in the city are likely responding to positive economic trends.

“Businesses in general are displaying more confidence, so they may be more open to hiring,” Sullivan said. “It’s happening at all levels.”

Economics professor Michael McPherson said the unemployment rate could be interpreted from several angles.

“There’s a lot more that’s hiding behind an unemployment statistic than appears, so we shouldn’t get depressed or overjoyed,” McPherson said. “It’s an indicator – a very rough indicator – of the direction the economy’s moving.”

McPherson said he believes the unemployment rate is falling because of improved economic conditions around the country, but people who have given up on finding a job may also impact the rate.

Those people, McPherson said, are not factored into the unemployment rate, which means that the percentage of unemployed residents in Denton could actually be higher.

According to the city of Denton’s labor statistics, the available workforce in 2012 was 64,915. At the end of 2013, the workforce count stood at 65,974.

Sullivan said the city doesn’t measure unemployment on a monthly basis and instead surveys the workforce on a quarterly basis.

“There are common fluctuations, usually in the summer,” Sullivan said. “A lot of students leave the city, so the workforce count can decrease.”

Along the same lines, Sullivan said students who graduate from UNT or TWU and decide to stay in the city can also affect the unemployment rate.

McPherson said that an increased unemployment rate would not worry him at first glance.

“If we see an uptick in unemployment, it doesn’t necessarily mean the wheels are coming off. In a sense, it could be a good sign,” McPherson said. “People that had given up now believe that they have a chance of getting a job and so they’re looking again.”

McPherson said before looking at a decrease in the unemployment as a good or bad thing, observers should look at what kinds of jobs are being created in the state.

“That’s one of the criticisms that has been made against Texas. We’ve added a lot of jobs, but they tend to be low-paying, service industry jobs,” McPherson said.

Across Texas, employers added 17,600 jobs in December of last year, according to the TWC. During all of 2013, Texas added 252,400 jobs.

Sullivan said one of the aspects of the unemployment rate that flies under the radar is the possibility that some workers are underemployed.

She said if someone has a job, then the person counts as being employed, regardless of whether or not the person makes enough to make ends meet.

Settling for a minimum wage job, Gonzalez said, is not something she is willing to do. She said she feels that the experience she gained at World Market has prepared her for a more specialized, higher-paying job.

“I know I need to find a job but I don’t want to set the bar too low for myself,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she has been using Eagle Network to send out her resume to businesses in the area that may be hiring.

Mark Pullam, assistant director of the Career Center, said it is important for students to use the resources the university provides.

“Finding a job is a great learning experience for students because it teaches them soft skills, like being somewhere on time and customer service,” Pullam said. “Those who excel at it leave with great reference points.”

Pullam said the Career Center works closely with local employers to periodically update Eagle Network about new job opportunities, both in and out of Denton.

“That’s one thing that endears businesses to UNT students. More than 80 percent of them actually work to put themselves through school or to have some extra money,” Pullam said. “They have a work ethic, and they know how to depend on employment opportunities.”

Gonzalez said she can probably cover her expenses for about two more months with financial aid she receives from UNT and some support from her family.

“I haven’t heard back from anywhere yet, but I feel confident in my abilities, especially being able to say that I’ve worked somewhere for two years,” Gonzalez said.

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