The recently released jobs numbers for April showed what many in the Rio Grande Valley had seen for the last 18 months: improvement.
Nearly every month since the end of 2017 has improved on the unemployment numbers from the year before, but April was different. Four South Texas counties and more than a half-dozen Valley cities clocked historically low unemployment numbers in April, a positive sign for the region.
McAllen hit a 3.5% unemployment rate in April, its lowest unemployment level ever recorded, according to Mayor Jim Darling. In addition, Brownsville (4.9%), Edinburg (3.7%), Harlingen (4.3%), Mission (4.5%), San Juan (5.4%) and Weslaco (4.9%) all hit their lowest ever recorded unemployment rate in April, according to a report issued by the Texas Workforce Solutions.
“We have a lot of labor,” Keith Patridge, President of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, said of the Valley. “But what we’re seeing is a lot more jobs are being created because the economy is generally doing well. As a result, I mean, really, anyone who wants a job can get a job.”
While Starr County’s record-low unemployment of 7.9% and Hidalgo County’s record-low of 5%, Cameron County’s record-low of 4.7% came the closest to the national unemployment rate of 3.6% for April. McAllen’s 3.5% was the only in the Valley to slightly best the national average.
Darling didn’t think McAllen was necessarily doing much to lure more jobs so much as supporting the business community.
“Everyone is supporting business and growth, and it shows,” Darling said. “The whole Valley is experiencing it.”
Some have argued McAllen could do more. In McAllen’s District 5 City Commission runoff election, incumbent John Ingram has faced criticism from banker and businessman Victor “Seby” Haddad, who has criticized Ingram for not supporting business growth.
But the unemployment rate in McAllen could have plenty to do with the overall economy in the country, Patridge said.
“You have a situation where you have more jobs being created, companies feeling better about the future, growing, adding jobs, adding people,” Patridge said.
However, he cautioned, as he has, that the region’s need for higher paying jobs is always a challenge. Darling did the same on Twitter when boasting about the unemployment rate.
“Now let’s work on skills development,” he wrote, “for better jobs!”