Reagan Hales

Amarillo Continues To Have State’s Lowest Unemployment Rate

The Amarillo community is brimming with generous volunteers, influential leaders and successful businesspeople. The people of Amarillo are what make our city unlike any other. With the AEDC guest blog posts, we hope to educate readers on our community as well as share valuable messages from Amarillo's key thinkers. This is a guest post by Trent Morris, Director of Workforice Solutions Panhandle.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the Amarillo Metropolitan Statistical Area has an unemployment rate of 2.8% in May of 2016 compared to the statewide rate of 4.2% and the national average of 4.5%. Amarillo has historically had a lower unemployment rate than the state and nation. As you see by the chart below, we follow the trends of the state and nation but our increases and decreases are simply not as dramatic. But what are the numbers not telling us?

Trent-Morris.jpgA diversified economy helps protect the region from large employment swings such as the latest oil and gas bust. In the chart below, you will see our largest industry employs 22% of the total employed and there are 4 other sectors employing at least 11% or more of the total. The wages earned by industry chart reinforces the diversified economy idea showing how wages are equally distributed amongst these industries. The area has 15 businesses that employ more than 1,000 workers, yet it has 3,710 small businesses that employ less than 10 workers.

Most employers in the region grow their business with slow and steady growth, which again takes away the large shifts in employment opportunities. The average employment growth rate for the MSA is 2.5% from April of 2006 to April of 2016.

Employees who find themselves between jobs tend to accept available employment rather than waiting for the ideal job to present itself. While they may be considered underemployed and looking to move up in careers, they are less like to sit on the sidelines and remain out of work.


Employers in the area can draw from a large commuting radius due to the ease of travel. Many of the small communities in the Panhandle rely on the employment opportunities available in the Amarillo market and take advantage of the lower cost of living by living in their hometown and commuting to Amarillo for work.


View full-size charts.

Now that we’ve have a better understanding of the data behind our labor force, I’d like to discuss how the Amarillo community embraces economic development projects.

Going back exactly 18 years, I remember like it was yesterday the phone call in early July of 1998 indicating Amarillo was in the running for the Bell Helicopter project. A meeting was necessary to finalize a proposal. Within a couple of hours, over a dozen community leaders and agencies met and established what was then referred to as the Bell Employment Training Alliance or BETA.  

Essentially, we guaranteed Bell Helicopter that a trained workforce would be available to them to meet their employment needs if they selected Amarillo. On August 2, 1998, the community celebrated the announcement that Bell was coming to town and the work quickly began.    

A toll-free telephone number was set up and eventually receive over 16,000 inquiries from individuals wanting to work for Bell. Applicant profiles were established, testing was administered and interviews were conducted, mostly on Saturdays, to allow for Bell supervisors from the Ft. Worth plan to fly into town to and participate in the hiring of the Amarillo plant’s employees. Amarillo College established a training course for candidates that wanted to get specialized training which would guarantee them for an interview with Bell.

Fast forward to today and we can discuss the Gestamp Renewable Industries (GRI) project which we are currently working on. Over the course of two days, GRI was able to interview approximately 300 welding candidates from the region to consider for their new wind tower manufacturing facility being built.  

As a final thought, I would suggest that a low unemployment rate does not imply that candidates will be limited for new projects coming to the city. In August of 1998, the Amarillo unemployment rate was 3.9% and Bell eventually had access to 16,000 potential candidates. In February of 2016, the unemployment rate in Amarillo was 2.9%, yet 300 welding candidates were available to GRI. Employers typically do not consider the unemployed as their applicant pool rather they seek out those that are employed and looking for an opportunity to move up.  

Trent Morris has 26 years of experience in workforce development. A Texas Panhandle native, he was born and raised in the Texas Panhandle. Trent earned his bachelor's degree in Finance from Texas Tech University. In addition to serving as Director of Workforice Solutions Panhandle, Trent is the president and owner of Huxford Group, LLC, which is contracted to manage and operate the workforce centers in the Panhandle. 


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Interested in contributing to the AEDC blog? Email Marketing & Communications Director, Reagan Hales.