Cause for hope, hesitation for South Texas economy

The Rio Grande Valley’s unemployment has decreased over the last year, giving hope to officials across the region who have stressed the importance of more and better-paying jobs.

Sales tax revenues across the region have jumped and the always-busy holiday season typically gives the South Texas economy a boost. Not to mention that the trade sector added an estimated 2,500 new jobs in November, according to Mike Willis, who tracks this information with Workforce Solutions in McAllen.

While job numbers in South Texas have trended positively, the regional unemployment rate — 4.1 percent in McAllen for November, 4.3 percent in Edinburg, 5 percent in Harlingen, 5.2 percent in Mission, 5.3 percent in Cameron County, 5.8 percent in Hidalgo County, 8.1 percent in Starr County — lags well below that of the state and the country.

Ray Perryman, an economist in Waco, noted that the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area “experienced spotty growth in the past year.”

However, Perryman also projected that the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area will see employment growth on par with the largest areas in the state. Perryman predicted that this area will add over 156,900 jobs through 2045, which equates to a 1.64 annual growth rate.
For comparison, Perryman predicted that the El Paso, San Antonio and Houston areas will grow at a 1.52 percent, 1.64 percent and 1.66 percent annual clip, respectively.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has also reported challenges for South Texas.

“Skill shortages remain an issue,” read a Dallas Fed report released in December. “It is hard to attract skilled workers to the region — and young, educated people tend to leave to find higher-paying jobs elsewhere.”