AUSTIN — Texas’ November unemployment rate was 8.0 percent, a decrease from 8.3 percent in October.
The rate, at two percentage points below the national average, validates “the approach we take here in Texas,” Gov. Rick Perry said on Dec. 18.
“Over the past two months, while the nation as a whole lost 122,000 jobs, Texas gained nearly 70,000 jobs, which is promising news for those Texans who are seeking employment,” Perry said.
Also, according to figures publicized by the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas civilian labor force reached its highest level ever at 12.1 million workers in November.
In other news, the Texas Workforce Commission alerted unemployment claimants about fraudulent e-mail text messages scammers use to illegally obtain personal identification information. Messages asking for that kind of information appear to originate from the commission, but the commission said it does not ask for personal ID numbers via email.
Job turnover rate lowest in years
State Auditor John Keel on Dec. 14 released an annual report on state employee turnover for fiscal year 2009.
The report says the statewide turnover rate was 14.4 percent for full- and part-time employees, the lowest turnover rate recorded in the last five years. The rate was 17.3 percent for the year 2008.
Excluding involuntary separations and retirements, the fiscal year 2009 statewide turnover rate was 8.1 percent. This rate, which is often considered more of a true turnover rate because it reflects preventable turnover, also decreased since fiscal year 2008, Keel’s report explained.
Factors that may have had an influence:
• Texas unemployment rates increased from 4.6 percent in fiscal year 2008 to 6.5 percent in fiscal year 2009.
• The average regular, full-time classified employee salary increased from $32,848 in fiscal year 2005 to $38,461 in fiscal year 2009.
• Agencies worked to improve retention efforts.
Bond program to reopen shortly
The Texas Permanent School Fund Bond Guarantee Program, closed since March, will resume functions in the first quarter of 2010 to back bonds issued to pay for school construction, saving school districts millions of dollars in interest costs.
The Internal Revenue Service informed the Texas Education Agency that it will revise its rules to allow bonds to be guaranteed up to 500 percent of the cost value of the Permanent School Fund as of Dec. 16. The State Board of Education oversees the fund and sets its capacity.
The Texas Education Agency said it was forced to close the Bond Guarantee Program on March 11 when turmoil in the stock market caused the value of the state’s Permanent School Fund to fall dramatically, reducing its capacity to back bonds.
According to TEA, the Bond Guarantee Program has backed more than $83 billion in bonds since its inception in 1983.
Friedman to run for ag chief
Hill Country musician, writer and animal rescue activist Richard S. “Kinky” Friedman ended his candidacy for governor and filed to run for state agriculture commissioner.
Friedman, running as a Democrat, will face Tyler rancher Hank Gilbert in the Democratic primary. Gilbert earlier ended his quest to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor and filed for the agriculture commissioner when Houston Mayor Bill White announced his candidacy for governor.
Republican Todd Staples, a former state senator from Palestine, Texas, is the incumbent agriculture commissioner. Gilbert lost to Staples in the November 2006 election.
Friedman got 12.44 percent of the vote when he ran for governor as an independent in the 2006 general election.
Dome to get spruced up in 2010
The State Preservation Board on Dec. 11 announced the Texas Capitol dome will undergo a 10-month repair project in the coming year. Estimated completion date is December 2010.
Workers will paint, fix leaky windows, remove asbestos and rust, and more. The job is not expected to interfere with Capitol tours and other normal activities.
Earle to run for Lt. Governor
Former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat who retired in 2008 after 35 years at the post, filed to run for lieutenant governor. Incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, filed for re-election earlier in December.
Keel is named state agency chief
The Texas Facilities Commission named former State Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, as director of the agency, effective Dec. 31.
Keel is a former Travis County sheriff. And, he served as House parliamentarian for then-speaker Tom Craddick at the end of the 2007 legislative session.