I'm not seeing nearly as many alerts for volunteers and/or donations to Katrina victims these days. That's good, in the sense that much of the immediate crisis of ensuring everybody is alive, fed, and healthy has been dealt with, but worrisome because the need goes much beyond the immediate future. Let's all keep up the good work.
"Houston can absorb a good portion," said Barton Smith, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston. "But at the rate we were growing, we can't absorb this added labor force overnight."
Smith estimates 10,000 to 20,000 of the evacuees are looking for jobs and will make Houston their home for a year or two.
But according to the Texas Workforce Commission, the Houston area created only 23,000 new jobs in the past 12 months, he said. So far, the agency has received 7,200 inquiries from employers looking to hire evacuees.
Even if the state agency underestimated Houston's year-over-year job gains and it is really closer to 40,000, it still won't be easy for the city to find spots for so many new job seekers, Smith said.
And the skills brought by the new residents may not be the ones employers are looking for.
Many of the displaced worked in retail or for small businesses that offered personal services — two sectors that aren't growing in Houston, Smith said.
On the plus side, more and more people are being moved out of the temporary shelters into more permanent residences.
There were 2,000 fewer evacuees at the George R. Brown Convention Center and Reliant Park on Sunday than the day before. Sunday night the total was 5,263 — down from 11,400 Sept. 6.
By today, the headcount at the megashelters had dropped to 4,680.