The Rural Texas Jobs Story

Texas Gov. Rick Perry says the "climate" he helped create in Texas has led to new jobs. That "climate," however, didn't reach rural Texas, where jobs declined in the last year.

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Two-thirds of the counties in rural Texas have lost jobs in the last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the rest of the state gained jobs from July 2010 to July of this year, rural Texas employment has been declining. In the last year, rural Texas’ 177 counties have lost a total of 15,828 jobs while urban and exurban counties have added 88,688.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry promotes job growth in Texas as the centerpiece in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Gov. Perry says repeatedly that “40% of the net new jobs in America have been created in Texas (in the last two years), and those jobs are being created in a climate that actually encourages such growth.” 

Texas had comparatively strong job growth in the last year, too. From July 2010 to July of this year, BLS figures show that Texas again ranks high in total job growth, standing second behind Florida in the number of jobs gained in this time period. Since July 2010, 30% of the new jobs in the United States could be found in Texas.

But while Gov. Perry contends that a statewide “climate” he helped create is responsible for this record, job growth in Texas is not a statewide phenomenon. In fact, most Texas counties are not seeing the job growth the governor is touting.

In the last year, 58% of Texas’ 254 counties lost jobs. 

The record in rural Texas is even worse. In rural Texas’ 177 counties, 115 (65%) had fewer jobs this July than in July 2010. 

The job loss in rural Texas in the last year runs against a national trend, in fact. There was a gain of 36,548 rural jobs nationally since last July. Some states succeeded in adding rural employment. Minnesota added more than 34,000 rural jobs, for example. Others, such as New York, Ohio and Texas, lost rural jobs.

In fact, the good job climate in Texas is geographically limited. Nearly 50,000 of the new jobs created in Texas during the last year were located in just three Houston-area counties — Fort Bend, Montgomery and Harris. Harris County alone added 31,675 jobs since last July, 43% of the Texas total. (These three counties had 21% of the state’s total jobs this July.)

The variation within Texas is massive. While Harris County gained nearly 31,675 jobs, Dallas County lost nearly 6,400 jobs and Hidalgo County (in the Rio Grande Valley) lost 4,518.

There isn’t so much a general Texas “climate” of job growth, as Gov. Perry claims, as there are starkly different local economies. Ector County (Odessa) gained 4,000 jobs in the last year while Taylor County (Abilene) lost 4,400 jobs. Both of these counties are in West Texas, but they have entirely different economic records.

And in Perry’s home county of Haskell in the Texas Panhandle, there were 109 fewer jobs this July than in July a year ago. Harris, Dallas and Haskell counties bask in the same economic “climate” of Gov. Perry’s Texas, but the results are dramatically different.

 “It’s time to get America working again,” Perry says. One of the lessons from Texas is that the community may mean a lot more than the state when it comes to jobs.




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