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S.A. job market sees rebound in February3.25.2010- William Pack - SA Express-News
San Antonio's job picture brightened in February, leaving an impression that the worst of the economic storm is behind us.
I think we've probably hit bottom, and we're starting to grow, said Keith Phillips, senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in San Antonio.
San Antonio's unemployment rate rebounded slightly from at least a 20-year high of 7.7 percent in January. February's rate was 7.4 percent, still one of the highest rates recorded in the area since the early 1990s.
But it also was the second-lowest rate among Texas' largest cities. Austin's rate in February was the best at 7.2 percent. El Paso was the worst at 9.6 percent, about a percentage point higher than Houston's unemployment.
Overall, Texas recorded an 8.2 percent unemployment rate in February, the same it's been for four months.
Phillips and St. Mary's University economist Steve Nivin both predict about a 2 percent job growth for the San Antonio market this year, slightly behind the area's long-term average growth.
If early indications hold, it won't be another year of declining job numbers. From December 2008 through December 2009, the eight-county metropolitan area lost 23,300 jobs, Texas Workforce Commission data shows. That equals to a 2.7 percent reduction.
It's going to be weak and gradually get better as we go through the year, Phillips said.
That rate, like the nation's, is adjusted to factor out seasonal changes like holiday hirings and end-of-school releases. Nationally, unemployment held steady at 9.7 percent in February.
Meanwhile, San Antonio's job count jumped from January to February after plummeting by 16,900 jobs from December to January.
Chakib Chehadi, Workforce Solutions Alamo's executive director, said outside of the retail sector, which continued a seasonal downsizing, all sectors either grew or remained the same in February.
The 5,700-job gain in February was caused primarily by increased hiring in government and hospitality jobs, but the education and health services sector also expanded by 1,800 jobs, and construction, which has been hit hard by the recession, added 100 jobs.
Professional and business services, a sector covering everything from architects to temporary workers, added 700 jobs in February, almost recovering from three months of job losses, Chehadi said.
Nivin said he, too, does not expect unemployment to climb much. Which sectors will lead the area out of the recession is open to debate.
Phillips said manufacturing and high-tech employers might assert themselves as traditional job stalwarts in the healthcare and state and local government sectors weaken.
We're not going to see the recovery all in one year. But we're turning the corner and starting to move in the right direction, Nivin said.