Houston and the rest of Texas continue to avoid the renewed job woes that have shaken the national economy of late.
The state added 12,500 nonfarm jobs in May, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday, marking the 22nd straight month of growth. Since May 2011, the state has added 237,100 jobs.
"Over the past year, private sector employment in Texas has shown an encouraging 3.3 percent annual growth rate," Workforce Commission Chairman Andres Alcantar said in a statement. "It is a positive sign that a number of Texas industries added jobs in May, led by professional and business services, with an increase of 8,500 jobs."
Excluding government, which continues to shed jobs, Texas gained 287,800 private-sector jobs over the past 12 months. The leisure and hospitality industry led the way during that period with 52,000 new jobs statewide.
Data for the Houston metropolitan area also include encouraging news, said Barton Smith, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Houston.
"The pattern right now suggests we're in the middle of a jobs slowdown in the country," he said. "We're not seeing that in Houston. ... It's kind of steady as you go."
Notably, Smith said, the region added 8,500 jobs for the month, which is consistent with recent trends. Continued growth in durable-goods manufacturing, most of which is related to equipment for upstream oil and gas activity, is particularly encouraging, he said.
Houston businesses likely will be paying close attention to that figure over the next three to six months, he added, to see what effect recent declines in global oil prices might have on that sector.
"That's something to watch," Smith said.
The Houston region added 500 jobs in oil and gas extraction in May, the Workforce Commission figures show, an increase of just 0.6 percent. But the annual increase is 5,200, for a robust 11.1 percent uptick.
May unemployment for Houston and Texas rose to 6.9 percent, up from 6.5 percent in April.
The U.S. unemployment rate for May was 8.2 percent. The monthly unemployment rate has been lower for Texas than the country overall for five years and five months.
Workforce Commission spokesman Mark Lavergne said that the increase in the rate last month follows a typical pattern: The rate for May has risen 10 times and stayed steady three times since 2000.
Lavergne said the commission can't confirm the cause.
Historically, however, a temporary reduction in school bus drivers and school cafeteria workers during summer vacation, combined with an influx of college students on summer break, boosts the unemployment rolls.
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