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Texas now has more jobs than it did before the pandemic hit

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Job growth in the state, driven by population gains, has outpaced the rest of the country in recent months, according to recent federal data.

The Texas labor market appears to have rebounded from the pandemic, with rapid population growth driving a demand for jobs.
The state ended 2021 with about 13.06 million nonagricultural jobs — about 89,600 more jobs than in February 2020, before the onset of the pandemic, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Unemployment levels have also been on a steady decline in the state and dropped to 5% in December. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas shows that the state’s unemployment rate was at 3.7% in February 2020 before it skyrocketed when pandemic restrictions began. The rate climbed to a record high of 12.9% when Gov. Greg Abbott ordered shutdowns in April 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The economic rebound from the pandemic recession in Texas is now outpacing the rest of the country, which experts attribute to population growth as well as the diversification of the economy and the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.

Arizona, Idaho and Utah have also seen their workforces bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and experts say other states should follow soon. Not counting farm work, payroll employment increased in 16 other states as well but remained stagnant in 33 states and Washington, D.C.

Texas is the fastest-growing state in the country, and a growing population leads to a growing demand for employment, said Daniel Hamermesh, labor economist and former economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Because of the pandemic, “we’ve seen a one-time drop in employment everywhere, which is only now coming back,” said Hamermesh, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Institute for the Study of Labor. “The fact it’s coming back in Texas faster is because of the population growth. There’s more people being here wanting to work.”

According to 2020 census data, Texas gained the most residents of any state since 2010. People of color accounted for 95% of the population growth, with Texas gaining nearly 11 Hispanic residents for every additional white resident since 2010.

The relatively fast recovery of the job market can also be attributed to the diversification of the Texas economy, Hamermesh added. Texas does not rely heavily on any single industry, unlike states like Nevada or New York, which are still recovering from the hits the tourism and entertainment industries have taken during the pandemic.

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“We’re not an oil-based economy particularly, although oil is important. We’re not financed, although finance is important. We’re not manufacturing, although that’s important,” Hamermesh said. “The diversity is such that it prevents especially hard hits, knocking the average out.”

Adding to that diversity has been the recent growth of the technology sector in the state. A number of technology companies have relocated to Texas from coastal cities, including electric automaker Tesla, which relocated its headquarters to Austin from Palo Alto, California, at the end of 2021. Others, such as Samsung, are massively expanding their Texas footprint.

The employment rate also has rebounded as Texas residents have gotten vaccinated and the state has loosened pandemic restrictions.
Steven Craig, an economics professor at the University of Houston, said a more relaxed regulatory body can allow the economy to recover at a faster pace.

“If Texas is restructuring faster than the country that was suggested, we’re a little bit more flexible because we have less government restrictions,” Craig said.

Texas was one of the first states to loosen pandemic restrictions, reopening businesses at limited capacity during the first surge as early as May 2020. And as Abbott has touted the need to prioritize economic recovery throughout the pandemic, he has been repeatedly met with swift criticism from Democrats and local officials who have expressed concern that easing business restrictions contributes to the spread of the virus.

As unemployment rates have fallen, some businesses — particularly those in the service industry — have been struggling to hire and retain employees, said Laura Murillo, the president of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Murillo said Texans are choosing work environments that offer more pay and more flexibility, whether those involve remote and part-time employment or starting their own businesses.

She said businesses have been successful when they adapt operations to meet the needs of their employees and the circumstances of COVID-19.
“The ones that are successful and that are continuing to thrive have accepted that we’re not going back to the old way of doing business,” Murillo said.

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The wait is over as Powerball finally has a winner for its jackpot worth over $1 billion

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The wait is over as Powerball finally has a winner for its jackpot worth over $1 billion

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A tiny neighborhood store in downtown Los Angeles sold the winning ticket for the Powerball jackpot worth an estimated $1.08 billion, the sixth largest in U.S. history and the third largest in the history of the game.

The winning numbers for Wednesday night’s drawing were: white balls 7, 10, 11, 13, 24 and red Powerball 24.

The winner can choose either the total jackpot paid out in yearly increments or a $558.1 million lump sum before taxes. Winners don’t have to come forward publicly but their names and the disposition of the money are public records, according to the California Lottery.

The winning ticket was sold at Las Palmitas Mini Market, which will receive a $1 million bonus from the lottery. The owner of the store is Maria Leticia Menjivar, lottery spokesperson Carolyn Becker said.

Lottery officials presented a giant symbolic check to the owner and her family, including her husband Navor Herrera, the manager, and hung signs saying “billionaire made here.”

Asked about the store’s million-dollar windfall, Herrera set his sights on the future.

“I have to make more bigger store, more items, good service for the people. That’s my thing now,” he said.

“The store is small” but the luck there is “big,” Herrera joked.

Located in the city’s Fashion District, the narrow minimarket is a few blocks from Skid Row’s scenes of homelessness and distress where thousands of people live in makeshift shanties that line entire blocks of the neighborhood.

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The 107-block district is both a center of the West Coast apparel industry as well as a low-income area where small stores offer clothing, accessories and fabrics that spill onto sidewalks. Bargain-seekers flock to the district, but many storefronts are shuttered.

The winner must come forward to the California Lottery to claim the prize — and should consider hiring financial and legal advisers, spokesperson Carolyn Becker told reporters.

“And then we have to spend time vetting the winner to make sure it is the right person,” Becker said. “Integrity and transparency are incredibly important to us, so we will probably not know for months and months.”

A crush of reporters descended on the narrow minimarket, creating an early morning stir.

Lucy Jamil, who works nearby, came to the market after hearing the jackpot news.

“I’m very excited — very, very excited,” said Jamil, an employee at a store selling items such as backpacks, strollers and makeup boxes. “This morning when I woke up I was praying to God, you know, God willing it’s gonna be somebody who works over here.”

Final ticket sales pushed the jackpot beyond its earlier estimate of $1 billion to $1.08 billion at the time of the drawing, moving it from the seventh largest to the sixth largest U.S lottery jackpot ever won.

The game’s abysmal odds of 1 in 292.2 million are designed to build big prizes that draw more players.

The largest Powerball jackpot was $2.04 billion in November, also in California, making Thursday the second time in less than a year that someone in Los Angeles County has become a Powerball billionaire.

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The last time anyone won the Powerball jackpot was on April 19 for a top prize of nearly $253 million.

Powerball is played in 45 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Associated Press writers John Antczak and Amancai Biraben contributed.

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This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Navor Herrera’s first name. It is Navor, not Nabor. It has also been corrected to show that Herrera is the store’s manager, not the owner.

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Body recovered from Lady Bird Lake Tuesday

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AUSTIN (AustinEnquirer.com) — A somber discovery unfolded on Tuesday morning as the Austin Fire Department retrieved the lifeless body of an unidentified man from the tranquil waters of Lady Bird Lake. The tragic event occurred in the vicinity of 1000 W. Cesar Chavez St., near the convergence of Barton Creek with the lake.

During a press conference, the Austin Police Department revealed that the circumstances surrounding the man’s untimely demise remain shrouded in mystery, prompting an ongoing investigation to uncover the truth behind this unsettling incident.

Prompted by an emergency call at precisely 10:28 a.m., the Austin Fire Department swiftly responded to the distressing scene. Despite their valiant efforts, the man was pronounced dead at 10:59 a.m., leaving the community shaken and searching for answers.

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TX power grid says cut electricity use as heat wave scorches…

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TX power grid says cut electricity use as heat wave scorches…

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ power grid operator asked residents Tuesday to voluntarily cut back on electricity due to anticipated record demand on the system as a heat wave kept large swaths of the state and southern U.S. in triple-digit temperatures.

On the last day of spring, the sweltering heat felt more like the middle of summer across the South, where patience was growing thin over outages that have persisted since weekend storms and tornadoes caused widespread damage.

In the Mississippi capital, some residents said Tuesday that they had been without power and air conditioning for almost 100 hours, which is longer than the outages caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Entergy Mississippi, the state’s largest electric utility, said its crews had worked 16-hour shifts since Friday, but some officials expressed doubts about its preparedness.

High temperatures in the state were expected to reach 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday.

“The delay in restoring power has caused significant hardship for their customers and it is unacceptable,” said Brent Bailey, a member on the Mississippi Public Service Commission, the state’s energy regulator.

The request by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which serves most of that state’s nearly 30 million residents, was its first of the year to cut energy consumption. ERCOT said it was “not experiencing emergency conditions,” but it noted that the state set an unofficial June record on Monday for energy demand.

In the oil patch of West Texas, temperatures in San Angelo soared to an all-time high of 114 degrees (46 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Many Texans have been skeptical of the state’s grid since a deadly 2021 ice storm knocked out power to millions of customers for days. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has said improvements since then have made the grid more stable, but those improvement efforts continue to draw scrutiny.

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In neighboring Oklahoma, more than 100,000 customers were eagerly awaiting the restoration of power and air conditioning following weekend storms that downed trees and snapped hundreds of utility poles. Officials say at least one person in Oklahoma has died because of the prolonged outages, which could last into the weekend for some residents.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday declared a state of emergency because of the weekend’s storms, citing damage from the weather and “numerous” downed power lines.

In Louisiana, more than 51,000 electricity customers were still without power Tuesday because of the storms that damaged more than 800 structures around Shreveport alone, according to Mayor Tom Arceneaux. Officials said more than a dozen major transmission lines were still awaiting repairs.

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Associated Press writers Michael Goldberg in Jackson, Mississippi, and Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.

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