(A little bit of) job growth returns to Houston

It’s a start.

From small hand-lettered signs on shop windows to Fortune 500 heavyweights hosting job fairs, Houston companies are once again starting to look for workers.

The influx of new jobs helped push the Houston area’s unemployment rate down slightly to 8.4 percent in April, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. The local jobless rate, which is not adjusted for seasonal variations, was 8.5  percent in March.

The commission also reported that Houston-area employers added 2,700 new jobs during April.

“It continues to look like we’re plowing ahead with steady, moderate growth,” said Barton Smith, director of the University of Houston’s Institute for Regional Forecasting.

Since Houston hit bottom in September, the area has been adding about 1,900 jobs a month, said Smith, who seasonally adjusts the monthly Texas Workforce Commission data. If that pace continues, Houston would be on track to add about 23,000 jobs over the course of a year, an increase slightly under 1 percent.

That’s not a lot for Houston, which is used to much more robust job creation, Smith said.

“But at least it’s growth,” he said. And it seems to be accelerating, he added.

There’s some context missing here. What do “robust job creation” numbers for Houston look like? How many jobs per month need to be created just to keep up with population growth? It would be nice to know these things, but they are not in the story. It’s also the case that new unemployment filings were up a bit – as Dr. Smith notes, there’s some churn as certain sectors seek to add employees while others are still shedding payroll. But at least the graph is pointing up again, and that’s something. If we can get something similar from property values, next year will be a lot better, or at least a lot less bad, than this year was. Keep your fingers crossed.

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