AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in December, the lowest it has been in 2½ years, as more than 20,000 nonfarm jobs were added for a second straight month, the state's employment agency said Friday.
The jobless rate dropped from 8.1 percent in November and was half a percentage point below the December 2010 rate, according to Texas Workforce Commission figures.
The commission said it was the lowest unemployment figure since July 2009. The national unemployment rate is 8.5 percent.
"Texas continues to see signs of improvement in the labor market," commission Chairman Tom Pauken said.
The commission said private employers added 10,100 jobs in December, equaling the number of government jobs added that month. The 20,200 increase in nonfarm jobs came after the November improvement was revised slightly downward to 20,500, according to the commission.
Among major industries, leisure and hospitality followed government, with an increase of 4,100 jobs. There was a jump of 2,200 jobs in manufacturing, 2,100 in financial activities and 2,000 in mining and logging.
"Eight of the 11 major industries in Texas added jobs in December, and that's good news for job seekers," said Andres Alcantar, one of the workforce commissioners.
Unemployment rates are adjusted for seasonal trends in hiring and firing, which most economists believe give a more accurate picture of the job market. Without the seasonal adjustment, the jobless rate in Texas fell to 7.2 percent in December from 7.5 percent in November.
Midland maintained the lowest local unemployment rate at 3.9 percent. The Brownsville-Harlingen and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission areas had the highest at 11.2 percent. Local figures are not seasonally adjusted.
The preliminary local jobless rates for December, with revised November numbers in parentheses, were:
—Abilene 6.0 (6.2)
—Amarillo 4.9 (5.1)
—Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos 6.3 (6.6)
—Beaumont-Port Arthur 10.1 (10.3)
—Brownsville-Harlingen 11.2 (11.4)
—College Station-Bryan 5.5 (5.7)
—Corpus Christi 6.9 (7.1)
—Dallas-Plano-Irving 7.2 (7.5)
—El Paso 9.3 (9.5)
—Fort Worth-Arlington 7.0 (7.3)
—Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown 7.3 (7.5)
—Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood 7.7 (7.9)
—Laredo 6.9 (7.1)
—Longview 5.9 (6.3)
—Lubbock 5.3 (5.5)
—McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 11.2 (11.1)
—Midland 3.9 (4.1)
—Odessa 5.0 (5.3)
—San Angelo 5.5 (5.7)
—San Antonio-New Braunfels 6.8 (7.0)
—Sherman-Denison 7.6 (8.0)
—Texarkana 6.8 (6.9)
—Tyler 7.3 (8.1)
—Victoria 6.3 (6.5)
—Waco 6.8 (7.0)
—Wichita Falls 6.6 (6.8)