New numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show McLennan County is seeing the best weekly wage growth in the state. Those numbers do provide some encouraging trends of growth, but experts said they need to be taken lightly.
Last year, Christopher Vanek was homeless and without a job, "I didn't feel like I had the potential to find a job that would fit me." He was referred to the Mpower program with Mission Waco.
"They'll help you out if you are going through a struggle in life. They'll sit you down and teach ya, get you to work in about two weeks." In just a matter of weeks, Vanek received the training to complete interviews and some skills necessary to be hired for a job.
Ross Rohlmeier's position as a job trainer and developer at Mission Waco and the Meyer Center has made him all too familiar with the McLennan County job climate.
"I think most people know that Waco is one of highest levels of poverty in the nation, and so because of that there are a lot of people that are unemployed that are looking for work and maybe they have different backgrounds that have prevented them from getting work," Rohlmeier said.
The Mpower program works at teaching skills and developing strong work habits, then matching them with employers. There are strong signs of improvement. McLennan County tops the state in weekly wage growth and ranks 33rd in the nation with a 7.7% increase. Rohlmeier said he's noticed a demand from some certain industries, "A lot of employers we work with are companies that deal with manual labor, construction, a lot of hands-on physical activities [that] are use to working 50 lbs."
The numbers support that observation. Kris Collins, Senior VP of Economic Development at Greater Waco Chamber, said all but one industry saw positive growth. "What we saw were the largest increases in professional services, construction continues to be strong for us, health service and financial activities, and with those usually comes a lot of skilled jobs, whether you need a degree or advanced skills training. And those are probably the reasons we see wage increases." More specifically three industries saw double-digit growth: manufacturing, education and health services.
While on the surface the growth seems impressive, Collins warns to take them with a grain of salt. "We have to take the study with a grain of salt. The us and the state both average over 1000 dollars for their average weekly wage and McLennan County is still at 850 dollars a week." However, Collins still sees a silver lining. "We are glad wages continue to increase in the area which creates better opportunities for our citizens. We are also proud that we are still an affordable place in the stat of Texas which to do business.
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