Some evacuees still not working, despite boom times in Houston

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The Houston Business Journal reports that the metro area continues to enjoy stunningly low unemployment:

Employment continues to increase in the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown area, according to figures released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The area had one of the largest increases in nonfarm employment among metropolitan areas in April compared with a year ago, with 84,900 jobs, following Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington with 92,400 jobs.

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown also had one of the largest year-over-year percentage increases in employment among large metropolitan areas of 3.5 percentage points, second only to Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale with 4.2 percentage points.

The area’s unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent in April from 4.1 percent in March.

Once upon a time, an unemployment figure of 5% was considered “full employment,” meaning that Houston really is booming at the moment.

Despite the demand for labor in Houston, one group of people remains underemployed, according to an AP report:

Nineteen months after Hurricane Katrina sent evacuees from New Orleans streaming into Houston, more than 5,000 heads of households among them are still unemployed despite the city’s booming economy, officials say.

The number of jobless is contributing to the sense among some Houston-area residents that the storm’s victims are a drain on the city and have worn out their welcome.


[Mayor Bill White] — who was recently given the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, bestowed on politicians who risk their popularity to do what they regard as the right thing — defended the evacuees, saying: “I don’t think most people want to live in trailer cities or shelters. They want to get on with their lives.”

But Republican Rep. John Culberson said the evacuees should have benefits cut off if they don’t get a job.

“We’re a charitable nation and Houston in particular has a big heart, and we have already gone way above and beyond the call of duty to help our neighbors,” Culberson said. “It’s time for everyone who can work to get to work.”

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