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In Face of Recession, Dallas-Fort Worth Job Market Grows

The region has added 19,500 jobs in October and 255,000 jobs in the 12 months ending in October, far outpacing previous years’ job growth. D-FW also set a new high for total employment in October with nearly 4.19 million workers.

the Texas state flag flies in front of the state Capitol
Texas executives seem more hopeful about the future of the economy than those in other states, including California and Florida. A number of companies have moved their headquarters or expanded their presence in Texas over the past year, partly due to its friendly business environment.
(TNS) — Here’s another reason to be thankful, even if you’ve heard it before: The local job market is crushing it again.

Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, added 19,500 jobs in October, seasonally adjusted, and that’s the biggest monthly gain since May, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Take a longer view, and the numbers are more impressive: In the 12 months ended in October, D-FW added 255,000 jobs — running far beyond historical rates and ahead of last year’s pace, when the economy was bouncing back from the pandemic.

In the decade before COVID-19, North Texas added an average of 92,500 jobs annually. That means this year’s job growth is running over two-and-a-half times ahead of typical trends.

“Something’s just booming up there up there in D-FW,” said Adam Perdue, an economist with the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University. “Everything is still doing fantastic.”

Dallas-Fort Worth set a new high for total employment in October with nearly 4.19 million workers. The region grew jobs by 6.5 percent over the past 12 months, almost double the U.S. job growth rate of 3.4 percent and highest among the most populous metros.

D-FW’s primary industries are still growing, Perdue said, and many are accelerating their pace of hiring. In the state jobs report, released Friday, Texas added hires in all categories except financial services, which lost 700 positions statewide.

The pullback in finance was not surprising, given the steady increases in interest rates and slowdown in the housing market. But in D-FW, the finance sector added 3,200 jobs in October — and it’s up nearly 22,000 positions, or 6.2 percent, for the last year.

The strong job growth runs counter to the expectation that the economy is headed for a recession, Perdue said, because the hiring suggests both higher production and higher consumption.

What he’s more worried about is the low unemployment rate, which was 3.4 percent in D-FW in October, down from 4.2 percent a year ago.

“We’re running out of people to hire,” Perdue said, “because we’re growing as fast as we can.”

This is the largest job gain D-FW has recorded for the 12 months ended in October. The total surpassed last year’s record of 214,000 jobs added, which was driven in large part by the recovery from the pandemic. Before the last two years, the fastest-growing comparable period was in 1997.

“The numbers are just off the charts; we’re basically doubling what we used to produce,” said Jay Denton, chief analytics officer at ThinkWhy, a Dallas-based software services company that focuses on jobs and pay.

One key has been strong domestic migration. D-FW has been a leader in attracting workers and employers from more costly regions in California, New York and Illinois.

Many made their way here during the pandemic, and that flow was expected to slow as other parts of the country rebounded and the rise in remote work became more permanent. If people could work anywhere, the theory went, that was expected to diminish the appeal of Dallas and other large metropolitan areas, especially with their home prices rising fast.

That hasn’t happened: “Dallas is still attracting lots of people who move here to work for local companies,” Denton said. “They’re also moving here to work remotely for companies outside of Texas.”

Data on migration lags, so it will be a while before this year’s pattern is clear. But a key metric — the size of the civilian labor force — suggests that D-FW continues to pull in many newcomers.

In the last 12 months, the region added over 158,000 people to the labor force, which includes those working and looking for work. In the Dallas- Plano- Irving metro division, the labor force grew nearly 4.2 percent, well ahead of the 2.2 percent increase for Texas and 1.8 percent for the U.S.

“You can’t get [growth] without the labor force,” Denton said. “You can have an open job, but you can’t fill it if you don’t have the people.”

The talent pipeline is one of the great strengths of the Dallas job market. Denton said that much of the Northeast, Midwest and California aren’t even matching the U.S. growth rate on labor force.

The number of announced corporate relocations to North Texas has slowed compared with last year, but the trend remains significant, said Laila Assanie, a senior business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

“We still have people and firms relocating but not to the same degree as we did in 2021,” Assanie said.

The threat of an economic downturn may be pushing some companies to move sooner, another expert said.

“It’s almost as if any type of recession talk seems to increase how fast people are coming,” said Thomas Vick, Dallas-Fort Worth regional director of Robert Half, a major staffing firm. “Employers are still hiring — plus we’ve got people and companies flooding into D-FW.”

Unemployment rates are not far from historical lows, especially in certain industries, and that puts more pressure on employers trying to expand.

In October, finance in the U.S. had an unemployment rate of 1.5 percent, and insurance was at 1.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The job category that includes oil and gas extraction — a crucial segment in the Texas economy — had an unemployment rate of 0.8 percent in October, down from 10 percent a year ago.

Such low unemployment, coupled with strong job growth, gives workers a decided edge in the current labor market, Vick said.

Yet there have been some large, high-profile layoffs announced this month, including Facebook parent Meta cutting over 11,000 jobs and Amazon cutting about 10,000. Those don’t reflect the broader trends, Vick said: “The big companies make the headlines, but they’re in the minority. Most companies are still out there trying to hire.”

They may have more applicants to court, at least from those tech giants. But they won’t have the leverage to get workers at a discount price.

“It’s still a talent-driven market, and candidates have the upper hand, especially in D-FW,” Vick said.

©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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