- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas’ unemployment rate in February fell to 4.4 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month, showing job growth in seven of the 11 major industries monitored by the Texas Workforce Commission, the agency said Friday.

Education and health services added 6,100 jobs, marking the 37th straight month of gains in those sectors. Another 5,500 jobs were added to trade, transportation and utilities industries.

The 4.4 percent Texas unemployment rate compares with the national jobless rate of 4.9 percent.

“Texas gained 170,900 jobs over the past year,” Commission Chairman Andres Alcantar said. “We continue to build local partnerships to equip the current and future workforce with the skills needed for the jobs being created by Texas employers.”

However, the jobs sector the agency describes as “Goods Producing,” which includes construction, manufacturing and mining, lost 18,700 jobs in February and has lost 88,300 jobs year-to-year. Some oil and gas industry jobs are included in that category, with the numbers reflecting the collapse of oil and natural gas exploration and related jobs in the state.

The Amarillo metropolitan area, at 2.9 percent, had the lowest jobless rate in February, followed by Austin-Round Rock at 3.1 percent.

The Rio Grande Valley had the highest unemployment: 7.5 percent for the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area and 6.8 percent for Brownsville-Harlingen.

Among the state’s largest metropolitan areas, Houston unemployment was at 4.7 percent, down from 4.8 in January. Dallas-Fort Worth was at 3.7 percent jobless, down from 3.8 in the previous month. San Antonio was at 3.5 percent, an improvement from 3.7 percent in January.

In the West Texas oil patch, Midland’s jobless rate was 4.0 percent, up from 3.9. In February 2015 it was 3.0 percent. Odessa was 5.6, up from 5.4. The year-ago jobless figure was 3.7 percent.

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