Help Wanted: Hiring freeze in Texas ends

The state hiring freeze officially ends September first. Agencies are now putting out: "Help Wanted" signs.

A job fair held Thursday by TX DOT is an example of the growing need for workers.

The TX DOT job fair in South Austin lasted only four hours Thursday. But in the first 30 minutes, more than 50 people were already inside filling out employment applications.

Among those to show up was Tanya Craft. The Corpus Christi resident has a job but drove to Austin hoping to get one of the new safety positions. "There is not too, too many people yet, you don’t want to be the first, and you don’t want to be the last, so I came at a good time,” said Craft.

Myron Alexander came to Austin two months ago. He left a good paying job in Lubbock to be closer to family. It’s the longest he's been unemployed and admits it’s a little scary. "Stiff competition, I will say that much, there are a lot job openings and it’s just a matter of finding that right spot for, ya,” said Alexander.

TX-DOT is hiring now because a statewide hiring freeze is coming to an end.

Spokesman Mark Cross told FOX 7 they currently have about a thousand job openings.

"These jobs cover the entire spectrum, of our operations, from administration, all the way down to maintenance. Simply every position, type of position that you could think of is probably included and needs a filling of bodies,” said Cross.

The freeze was ordered by Governor Greg Abbott back in January. It also freed up an estimated $200 million to fill a possible budget shortfall during the regular session.

In a strange twist, a few days ago as the special session was falling apart, the state comptroller revised revenue estimates. Lawmakers were given an extra $200 million dollars, which made it easier to bail out an underfunded health care program for retired teachers.

TX DOT is not the only one hiring. Earlier this week, LCRA put out the help wanted sign.

On Friday we'll see just how well things are going, when the Texas Workforce Commission issues new employment numbers. Between January and June, 319,300 jobs were added in Texas.

A bulk was in education and health services, followed by manufacturing, mining and logging.

That rosy picture caught the attention of Allan Ladd.

He gave up a federal paycheck in D.C. For a lone star dream.

"Texas had the best opportunity for a veteran, I’m a retired veteran, so it has the best opportunity for a vet to start a new career, and so I chose Texas because of all of the beautiful things, the weather, tax free state, a lot of good benefits for veterans here,” said Ladd. 

As of June, the Texas unemployment rate is at 4.6%. There are clusters of counties, in West, South and Southeast Texas at or above 7%. 78 counties have unemployment rates below 4%. 

The Austin metro area is one with a low rate.

At 3.2% Austin reportedly has the lowest unemployment rate in the state followed by San Antonio.

The employment picture is a double edged sword.

An example of that came in a warning earlier this month in a report by Texas A&M. It was noted while the state economy is growing, housing costs are increasing while wages have dropped. Here in Austin, it’s was reported that hourly earnings have decreased half a percent since this time last year.