The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported late last week that the statewide Texas unemployment rate for October, seasonally adjusted, was 6.9%, essentially the same as the 6.8% rate reported for August. The statewide rate took a large upward turn in September to 8.3%, the first upward movement since April. The October reading indicates a return of Texas to the path toward ‘normalcy' and matches the overall U.S. unemployment rate. Still, there is a long way to go. One year ago, the October unemployment rate in Texas was 3.5%. Oh what a difference a year – and a virus- can make.
Matching the unemployment rate news is the report on nonfarm employment. The statewide nonfarm employment number, seasonally adjusted, was 12,390,070 in October, up from 12,272,600 in September and 12,224,500 in August. Just under 120,000 new jobs were counted in October compared to September. Again, this is a steady improvement, and a much bigger monthly increase from September to October than from August to September. For comparison, the nonfarm employment number for October 2019 was 12,889,900, so we are still almost 500,000 jobs below a year ago.
There are also employment numbers by industry. Construction employment in October of this year was 755,500 compared to 784,400 one year ago. Manufacturing employment this October was 883,500, below the 904,200 recorded one year ago. Trade, Transportation and Utilities was 2,458,000 in October this year, compared to 2,529,900 a year ago. Some find it surprising that in the midst of a pandemic, Education and Health Services employment is also down this year to 1,686,300 in October versus 1,757,200 one year ago. The pandemic has led to layoffs and furloughs among health workers, with fewer elective surgeries and visits to healthcare providers for routine services. Finally, the big gorilla in terms of this year's job losses is the Leisure and Hospitality industry, with employment at 1,206,400 in October compared to 1,413,900 one year past. This industry alone is responsible for about 208,000 of our 500,000 job decline year-over-year in October.
Some industries have seen employment growth from October of 2019 to this October. This includes Financial Activities (813,600 this year versus 805,500 a year past) and Professional and Business Services (1,827,800 this year versus 1,810,100 one year ago).
Finally, our big local employer is Government, which includes faculty and staff at public universities. As we have noted in other publications, employees at Texas A&M University and other state institutions of higher education are classified by the BLS as working in the industry labeled Government and not in Education and Health Services. Statewide, Government employment was 1,943,000 in October, compared to 1,983,000 one year ago.
In October, Texas returned to the path of economic recovery. Much has been achieved since the disaster of March and April. Much remains to be done.