The Texas economy added 36,400 jobs in September, according to data released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission. Over the past 12 months, employers added 413,700 jobs — the most ever recorded by the state.
The unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent in September, down from 5.3 percent in August. A year ago, the rate was 6.3 percent.
“We’re having a broad -based increase in job growth in Texas, and sooner or later we’re going to have to see wage increases,” said Trinity University economist David Macpherson.
Those strong September numbers preceded the recent decline in oil prices and the Ebola outbreak in Dallas, but economists said those occurrences aren’t expected to affect the Texas job market.
“People with long memories back to the 1980s are getting nervous about oil prices,” said Jim Glassman, senior economist at Chase Commercial Banking. The U.S. benchmark of crude oil, West Texas Intermediate, declined to $82 a barrel this week, its lowest level since 2012.
The state has been “spoiled” by stable oil prices and now people panic when it goes down a little, said Keith Phillips, senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
“People shouldn’t forget that there’s an upside to the lower oil prices, even in Texas,” he said. “Lower gasoline prices could prompt consumer spending.”
Oil prices would have to fall significantly lower before today’s high-cost drilling shuts down and energy jobs are lost, Glassman said.
Similarly, economists weren’t too concerned that the Ebola outbreak will have a lasting impact on business in Dallas.
“Some people are making knee-jerk reactions possibly by canceling trips here, but that’s not something that has a lasting economic impact,” Macpherson said.
It’s not just the energy industry that is helping the state set job growth records every month, economists said.
Nine of 11 major industries posted job gains in September, led by leisure and hospitality with 9,300 jobs added. The next biggest job gains were posted by government (7,200), construction (5,400) and mining (5,000).
Manufacturing lost 2,700 jobs from August and financial services declined by 200 jobs.
All major jobs categories are up from a year ago.
Last month was also the first time the state’s labor force topped 13 million in September.
Several companies surveyed by the Dallas Fed responded that they are seeing labor market tightness, according to the Fed’s Beige Book, which came out Wednesday.
Companies said that they are experiencing upward wage pressures. Staffing services firms said candidates were often receiving multiple offers, which caused some firms to increase wages to stay competitive, the report said.
“I expect the state unemployment rate to fall further,” said Phillips, noting that claims for unemployment insurance continue to fall sharply.
The Dallas-Fort Worth unemployment rate fell to 5 percent from 5.5 percent in August. It was 6.1 percent in September 2013.
Reflecting the state’s drilling boom, Midland had the lowest September unemployment rate among Texas cities at 2.6 percent. Other West Texas towns also had low rates: Odessa, 3.1 percent, and Amarillo, 3.6 percent.
Houston’s metro jobless rate fell to 4.9 percent in September from 5.4 percent in August.
A comparison of Texas with other states won’t be available until next week when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases state-by-state data for September.