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US jobless rate near record low Cameron County at 6.6% and Hidalgo County 7.4%

MARIO GONZALEZ/THE RIDER

The nationwide unemployment rate hit 5 percent in November, the lowest it has been since 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In Texas, the rate was 4.4 percent,nearly reaching the all-time low of 4 percent in December 2000.

Nearly 8 million people are unemployed in the U.S., including 35,276 in the Rio Grande Valley. Officials attribute the
decrease in the unemployment rate to the boom in the manufacturing industry.

From January to October of this year, the number of unemployed individuals dropped from 8,979,000 to 7,908,000,of which 1.6 million are Hispanic.

In Cameron County, 10,743 individuals were unemployed as of September, which is a 1.1 percent decrease from the same time last year. In Hidalgo County, 24,533 people were unemployed in the same month, which is a 0.6 percent drop from the same period last year. In Starr County, the number of unemployed rose from 3,019 to 3,102. In Willacy County, 799
people were unemployed compared with 782 in the previous year.

Gilberto Salinas, vice president for the Brownsville Economic Development Council,said there are many factors that contribute to the low unemployment rate in Cameron County during this time of the year.

“A lot of retailers are hiring additional people for their stores, you know, for the rush, for the shop, what have you,” Salinas said. “Then the other one is the economy has, slowly but surely, started to bounce back here for the last two to three years.”

He said other contributing factors on a national scale are an increase in U.S. Consumer Confidence Index and a growth
in the manufacturing industry.

“I think in Brownsville, right now, we’re at 6-point something, and that is the lowest it’s been in recent history,” Salinas said.

Letty Reyes, director of Business Development and Public Affairs for the Edinburg Economic Development Corp., said
the unemployment rate for Edinburg in October was 4.9 percent.

“We’ve had one of the lowest unemployment rates. I think last month we tied with McAllen, and that is due to all the new developments that are happening around the city,” Reyes said. “We’ve had over a $100 million invested. So, that means more companies, more jobs, more restaurants and more retail coming to the area, as well as more manufacturing.”

Medical, government, entertainment, retail and manufacturing are all growing industries in Edinburg.

Gaby Villarreal, a Staff Force administrative assistant in Brownsville, said she has noticed an increase in industrial and production jobs. She also mentioned that the hardest part of pairing a potential employee with an employer is differentiating between the good and the bad candidates.

“A lot of people can tell you, you know, they can do the job or that they want to work, but people have a mind of their own, and you really never know what you’re gonna get,” Villarreal said. “You can get someone who is really trying and really looking for work and really wants to, you know, better themselves. And then you have those people that tell you that they’re ready for work and then don’t show up, basically, and end up making you look bad.”

Villarreal says her agency primarily looks for candidates who are hardworking and reliable.

Henry Castillo, regional director for Cameron Workforce Solutions, said a problem employers encounter is individuals who do not possess soft skills.

“Hard skills are specific training that you learn to do in a particular job,” Castillo said. “Soft skills are the skills that employers need in addition to those hard skills. Those are things like following instructions, working as a team, you know, time management, critical thinking skills, things that you typically don’t take a class for but are still important.”

WFS Cameron is the local employment provider for the Texas Workforce Solutions System, which is part of the Texas Workforce Commission. The organization provides services for people in need of work and information for schools and
companies. It offers a 20-hour workshop on soft skills twice a month. The program runs from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday at 851 Old Alice Rd. in Brownsville. Interested individuals must call the office in advance at 546-3141.

Juan Andres Rodriguez, director of the UTRGV Career Center, said that in a survey during commencement last spring, at least 60 percent of students already had a job and within a year, after graduation, 82 percent either found a job or continued their education.

The Career Center has served more than 7,000 students during the fall semester for on and off campus jobs. In the UTRGV Career Connection website there are 60 available jobs for students on campus and 193 jobs off campus.

UTRGV will continue legacy institution’s UT Brownsville’s Student Employment Initiative program, which began in 2005 as part of UTB’s retention and timely graduation strategy. The program is designed to employ students on campus. SEI applicants must be enrolled for at least 15 credit hours each semester and maintain a minimum grade-point average of 3.0.

For more information on university employment, access the Career Connection application at my.utrgv.edu or call Caree Center at 882-5627 in Brownsville or 665-2243 in Edinburg.

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