A surging oil and gas sector continued to strengthen the Midland labour market in July, according to new figures from the Texas Workforce Commission.

The Texas Workforce Commission has reported that the July unemployment rate in the Midland metropolitan area fell to 2.2 percent from 2.4 percent in June and three percent a year ago and has the state’s lowest unemployment.

Odessa saw its unemployment rate drop to 2.9 percent from 3.2 percent in June, tying Midland’s western neighbour with Amarillo for the state’s second lowest unemployment.

“We have a very hot economy in the Permian Basin,” observed Willie Taylor, chief executive officer of the commission’s Workforce Solutions Permian Basin, speaking to local news outlet the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

He noted expansion in the area’s dominant industrial sector, Mining, Logging and Construction, which includes the oil and gas industry. Midland’s strong wages – among the highest in the state – reflect the fact that “we don’t have enough workers.” He put average weekly wages in the Permian Basin at $1,200 compared to $1,100 statewide “and Midland is even higher.”

“Mining, Logging and Construction is driving the economy; everything else is along for the ride,” he said.

Midland’s civilian labor force topped 100,000, coming in at 101,167, up from 100,082 in June and 93,349 in July 2017.

“Midland has seen an increase of about 1,000 in its workforce every month since January of this year,” James Beauchamp, president of the Permian Basin Coalition, a public-private alliance supporting safe, reasonable development in the Permian Basin, told the Reporter-Telegram by email. “It is a tremendous increase, and frankly, it is an increase that one, most people are not really aware of, and two, that we are simply not prepared for.”

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The coalition recently hosted a regional luncheon at the Petroleum Museum to discuss how infrastructure needs, from roads to housing to pipelines, could hamper the region’s economic growth.

“While Midland has had tremendous gains in housing, those gains have not kept up with demand. Additionally, it isn't possible to add additional housing as fast as we are adding people, and as these folks look for places to live, it is going to drive up the price of housing units and rents,” said Beauchamp.

Infrastructure was also on Taylor’s mind as he told the Reporter-Telegram that infrastructure will play a significant role in the region’s growth. “We want people to be able to bring their families. That means teachers, people in the medical field,” he said.

“We’re going to continue to see growth. We can’t just sit back and watch it,” Taylor warned.

He said continues to encourage younger residents “without skills to go to the local colleges and upgrade their skills. It can make the difference between making $15 an hour and $20 an hour.”