It’s well known that Texas is an economic engine admired around the world. In fact, Texas has the ninth-largest economy in the world. However, as in the rest of the world, the Texas economy took a real hit from the global coronavirus pandemic.

At the end of 2019, Texas’ unemployment rate was only 3.5%. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. By April, unemployment had skyrocketed to around 13%. A year later, millions of people have been vaccinated and the economy is beginning to recover. But unemployment remains a serious problem for too many of our fellow Texans.

In January, the Texas Workforce Commission reported statewide unemployment at 6.8% – down significantly from the peak last April, but still nearly double what it was before the pandemic. And 6.8% is a statewide average – some parts of the state are still experiencing double-digit unemployment. In all, over a million Texans are still out of work.

Employment is growing in Texas at a better clip than the rest of the country, but so is our population. Between July 2019 and 2020, Texas added nearly 374,000 new residents according to U.S. census estimates – the largest population growth of any state in the nation. Meanwhile, while employment is also growing, it’s growing unevenly. In fact, while there was positive job growth at the beginning of the year, the last few weeks have seen an uptick in unemployment.

Getting back to 2019 job numbers is simply not enough – if we’re going to grow at a pace to not only recover jobs lost, but to add enough new jobs for our rapidly growing population, we need to optimize our workforce programs for success.

That’s why we are working with the Commit Partnership to bring together stakeholders from across Texas as Aim Hire Texas. Together, we’re finding ways to align our state’s education system and skills development programs with the needs of Texas employers. Throughout the process, we will be expanding opportunities for all Texans and enhancing talent as a strategic asset for the continued growth of the Texas economy.