Abilene ranks last in job creation in the nation, according to a news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics two weeks ago.
The report, based on numbers from August, states that “the largest over-the-year decreases in employment were reported in Abilene, Texas (-4.7 percent), Battle Creek, Mich. (-3.9 percent), Missoula, Mont. (-3.8 percent), and Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J. (-3.6 percent).”
The numbers don’t necessarily mean Abilene’s economy is in dire straits. Dr. Monty Lynn, associate dean of the College of Business Administration, said that the data is still partially speculatory.
“Economists are still trying to piece together a story that isn’t yet clear,” Lynn said. “I would look toward the long-term trends and specific economic sectors rather than job loss overall.”
The report numbers indicate that 3,000 positions in the area were lost in a year’s time, an alarming number for a city of 114,797 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Despite the poor ranking in the report, which can be edited in the future after more data can be collected, Abilene’s unemployment rate of 7.2 percent is tied for eighth-lowest in Texas.
“The largest economic sectors in Abilene are the Air Force base, health care, education and retail,” Lynn said. “Those sectors responded slowly to the recession in 2007. We didn’t see all of the effects immediately, but we’re starting to now.”
The news of the status of the local job creation is discouraging to students hoping to get a job during the school year, like Connar Turner, sophomore advertising and public relations major from Lubbock.
“I’ve noticed that jobs are really hard to find here because it seems no one is hiring,” Turner said. “You really have to be competitive in Abilene because they are so scarce.”
Lynn said he thought it was too early to worry about the short-term effects on the local economy, but that the same may not be true for the long-term.
“This might not be the cyclical effects of the economy beyond us but the greater concern is the structural change,” he said. “The competitiveness of particular sectors may be changing and effecting the future of the local economy.”
Turner said the situation may not yet be as serious as the report suggests, but it doesn’t change the reality of her current lack of employment.
I haven’t had any luck looking for a job yet,” Turner said. “This news helps to explain it.”