Lucio Masthead Graphic
September 1, 2008
Contact: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
(512) 463-0385
Our Local Workforce On Labor Day

Labor Day is described by Wikipedia as the symbolic end of the summer for most Americans.

Despite Texas' hot climate, outdoor activities start slowing down or shutting down, like community pools, amusement parks and campgrounds. Hundreds of hard-working high school and college students are back in academia. Many of us, depending on our professions, get the day off.

While most of us value time off from work, what we value more is the ability to be a contributing member of society.

Employment is at the crux of a community's economic vitality, especially higher-wage jobs. But higher-end professions are harder to find in South Texas than most other regions of the state, and this contributes to an outmigration of educated young adults who take their needed skills with them.

According to a recent Texas Comptroller report, South Texas' job growth will outpace the state's through 2012, partly from the region's rapidly growing population that has exceeded the state average since 2002.

State Demographer Karl Eschbach reports that Cameron County's population estimate for January 2007 is 395,161, showing a 17.9 percent increase from 2000 to 2007. For the same period, Hidalgo County's population is estimated at 723,433, showing a 27 percent increase, and Willacy's population of 20,987 shows a 4.5 percent increase.

Kenedy and Kleberg counties experienced a decrease of -4.1 percent with populations of 397 and 30,256 respectively. It is well documented that smaller counties with fewer employment and education opportunities suffer even more from the exodus of young workers. The International Relations and Trade Committee I chair is addressing these problems and seeking legislative solutions.

Projections for 2002 to 2012 indicate a 38.5 percent employment growth for the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), and a 23 percent employment growth for the Brownsville-Harlingen MSA, slightly below the state's average of 25 percent.

While this outlook sounds promising, we must remember that the area's lack of education and occupation skills training means lower-paying positions for many. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) lists the median hourly wage as $13.21 for South Texas, compared to the statewide average of $18.25. Annual earnings per local worker average $31,506, compared to the statewide average of $49,004. Improving higher education attainment, expanding job skills training and reducing dropout rates are the tools that will enable us to reach statewide averages.

While we continue to see new job growth in some areas, we're still plagued by higher unemployment. In July 2008, unemployment was 6 percent nationally and 5 percent statewide. Ours are still an unacceptable 7 percent for Cameron, 9.3 percent for Willacy and 7.7 percent for Hidalgo.

As a region, we must encourage local and outside job creation. This holiday, I want to recognize the thousands of South Texans with the entrepreneurial spirit that has resulted in job creation and a boost to our economy. From the Mom and Pop shop owners to big business executives, every entrepreneur contributes to either direct or indirect job growth, so I encourage this spirit in our area.

Estimates by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. (EMSI), a state contractor with TWC, show that 18,347 new jobs were created between January 2007 and January 2008 in Cameron, Hidalgo, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy counties. This represents a 4.3% increase in new jobs.

EMSI projects that between 2008 and 2015, 78,100 new jobs will be created in South Texas. With a young workforce, we will need these offerings and more. Currently, 87,050 South Texans are between the ages of 25 and 29 years (44 percent of the population), and by 2015 that age group is projected to rise to 95,004.

Our school children of today will be the workforce of tomorrow, so this Labor Day, I thank those in public and higher education for preparing so many young minds to enter the labor force.

I also thank our military men and women who safeguard the American dream of better job opportunities than those of the previous generation.

To every South Texan who works hard to better our community, my family and I wish them a happy and safe Labor Day!

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.