El Paso's job market got a jolt in recent days when two large El Paso employers announced plans to lay off almost 500 workers this year and next year.
Despite that bit of bad news, economists and employment experts expect a fairly healthy El Paso job market this year with some modest job gains, and a rate of job growth projected to be slightly better than the national rate.
Two of El Paso's larger employers -- high-tech giants Hewlett-Packard and Automatic Data Processing -- increased their workforces last year, and they plan to hire more people this year.
However, Leviton Manufacturing announced last week that it would close its West Side factory and lay off more than 300 people, and on Jan. 10, Boeing announced it
would cut its Northeast El Paso factory operations in half, and lay off about 160 workers by the end of 2014.
Economist Roberto Coronado, who oversees the El Paso branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said he expects El Paso to add 5,000 to 6,000 jobs this year -- better than last year.
Data released Friday show El Paso's rate of job growth in 2012 was around 1.3 percent, when seasonally adjusted, which is near the historical annual average of 1.4 percent, Coronado said. Those data could be revised later, he noted.
"If we compare the local labor market to the national labor market, you see El Paso has actually outperformed the national economy by far" during the recession and during the post-recession recovery
period, Coronado reported at the Border Economic Forum at UTEP last week. "Today, El Paso has 2.6 percent more jobs than back in 2007 (when the recession began), while the U.S. is still struggling to gain back jobs. The U.S. is down almost 3 percent" in the number of jobs since late 2007, he said.
Tom Fullerton, an economics professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, said, "Both Texas and El Paso should observe fairly healthy job growth this year. But given the policy disagreements (in Washington and Austin), it probably will be a choppier growth record than would otherwise be the case."
He expects El Paso to add about 7,000 jobs this year and to have a job growth rate around 1.9 percent.
El Paso's unemployment rate remains well above the state and national rates. It increased in December to 8.9 percent, compared with 8.5 percent in November, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported Friday. El Paso had an estimated 27,500 people unemployed and actively seeking jobs in December, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday.
Lorenzo Reyes, CEO of Workforce Solutions Upper Rio Grande, last week characterized the El Paso job market as stable. He said he expects some employment growth this year, especially in the retail industry.
"Some businesses will be opening, especially in retail and restaurants. With the Fountains at Farah (shopping center) opening in the fall, there will be some additional employment opportunities there. Unfortunately it's in one industry, and we'd like to see growth in other areas -- in manufacturing, in high-skilled jobs," such as those being added by HP and ADP, he said.
Automatic Data Processing, or ADP, a Fortune 500 company based in New Jersey, last month announced it would add 585 jobs in El Paso from 2013 through 2017, and eventually spend about $21 million to build and equip an additional El Paso facility, probably next to its client-solution center on the West Side.
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