Texas Gov. Rick Perry's efforts to tout his record on jobs and the economy as a centerpiece of his presidential campagn took a hit today with new figures from one of his own state agencies: They show the Texas unemployment rate increased to 8.5% in August -- the highest level in more than 24 years and more than twice the rate when Perry took office in December 2000.
The new unemployment rate for Texas is still below the national average of 9.1%. But the new figures from the Texas Workforce Commission included some disturbing trends: There was a net jobs loss of 1,300 in Texas during the month of August, even worse than than the latest national figures showing zero job growth.
While the private sector did add 8,100 jobs in Texas during August, this was more than offset by a shrinking public sector resulting in the loss of 9,400 government jobs, state figures show.
State officials blamed national economic trends. "Texas continues to feel the pressures of a stagnant national economy," said Texas Workforce Commmission chairman Tom Pauken.
But the figures also show some key sectors of the Texas economy losing strength during the month: Trade and transportation, mining, information, and leisure all experienced job losses. Mark Lavergne, a spokesman for the commission, confirmed that the new unemployment rate of 8.5% -- up slightly from 8.4% the previous month -- is the highest unemployment rate for Texas since July, 1987. When Perry took office in December 2000 after George W. Bush resigned, the unemployment rate in Texas was 4.2%
At this week's GOP presidential rate, Perry touted his record of "creating more than one million jobs" in Texas, but made no mention of the recent downward trends in the state's economy. A spokesman for his campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest figures.
*** UPDATE *** Perry's campaign this afternoon responded:
"Texas is not immune to the effects of the national recession," said Ray Sullivan, Perry's chief spokesman. "Yet Texas continues to outperform the rest of the country and is still home to roughly 40% of the net new jobs created nationwide since June 2009."
He continued: "And even during this national economic downturn, which the president's misguided policies have only worsened, Texas remains the nation's top economy, attracting jobs and growing by more than 1,000 people a day. As president, Gov. Perry will get our nation's fiscal house in order, free employers from the onerous tax and regulatory burdens undermining our economy, and restore confidence in private sector job creators across this nation so we can get America working again."