PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

April 19, 2013

Unemployment on the decline in Port Arthur

PORT ARTHUR — The city of Port Arthur saw its unemployment rate drop to 14.2 percent in the month of March — down almost an entire percentage point from 14.9 percent in February, and 1.5 percent from 15.7 percent in March 2012.

Robert Foster, labor market analyst at Texas Workforce Solutions, said these numbers were due in part to a smaller labor force. There were 19,865 people employed in March, 13 more than the 19,852 in February.

“When you look at your employed, those numbers are fairly close,” Foster said. “But when your labor force goes down, that’s going to make your unemployment go down.”

However, the total number of residents in Port Arthur who are employed has dropped from 20,062 in March 2012. Foster said he has been unable to determine the root of Port Arthur’s unemployment problem.

“We have had labor market analysts on that area for 12 years, and we can’t put a finger on specifically why those numbers are so high,” he said. “We can’t say it’s a drug problem, we can’t say it’s a gang problem — we just don’t know what the problem is. We thought the new census would change a lot of things, but it hasn’t done anything for us.”

Unemployment in the Beaumont-Port Arthur metropolitan area has fallen from 9.9 percent in February to 9.7 percent in March — exactly where it was this time last year.

Jefferson County saw 73 people join its work force in the month of March. Employment numbers rose from 107,690 in February to 107,763. In March, 10 percent of the county’s population was unemployed, as opposed to 10.2 percent in February and 10.4 percent in March 2012.

Foster’s explanation for the Jefferson County numbers were much the same as the explanation from Port Arthur. The Jefferson County labor force shrank from 119,933 in February to 119,749 in March — down from 121,428 in March 2012.

“The people that were here before Christmas left,” Foster said. “They get a lot of out-town people working these construction sites.”

Overall, Foster said, he believes the area is on an upswing.

“When the spring hits, the contractors are more apt to take the opportunity to work out at the plants and the shutdowns,” Foster said. “There is a lot of construction and a lot of expansions going on in the plants that will help tremendously.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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