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'This is good even though many are still struggling' | Jobless claims down as vaccines, re-openings ramp up

Experts say medical, hospitality and education are among the sectors hiring right now.

HOUSTON — Things are looking up on the job front one year after the worst of COVID-19 began.

Jobless claims hit a four-month low last week. But a lot of people continue to search for work.

"It's really tough," said laid-off welder Bobby Wilkerson. "Before this COVID, I never drew an unemployment check in my life, and I’ve been working since I was 17 years old.”

Things are improving for many as vaccines and re-openings ramp up.

“I applied for this job, got it, and have been here ever since,” said Mike Jefferson.

He moved to Houston from Michigan amid the pandemic and now helps run one of two RDA Pro Mart professional beauty supply stores which, by the way, are hiring.

"We can teach skills," said general manager Michelle Talley. "So we just need candidates who are ready to work, have a great work ethic and we can train them.”

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the state’s unemployment rate is nearly half of what it was in April and May of last year.

Restaurants, some retail, leisure and hospitality are among the sectors expected to grow. At this moment, hundreds of jobs are posted by various Houston hospitals. School districts are also hiring as they prepare for what’s likely to be a more normal academic year in the fall.

"Subs, bus drivers, aides as well,” said Dr. Tameka Williams-Bruce.

She's Spring ISD’s assistant superintendent of human resources and held a virtual hiring session for prospective teachers this week.

"As you prepare, we always have to be in the mindset of continuous recruitment and knowing that life happens and you may end up with a vacancy at any time,” Williams-Bruce said.

Texans recently filed seven years' worth of unemployment claims in just 10 months.

Even Wilkerson believes things can only improve.

"This is good even though many are still struggling," Wilkerson said. "We’ve been paying bills and borrowing money from friends and family to keep everything paid and keep everything going.”

The workforce commission said consider pivoting to something outside your usual line of work if there’s employment in other areas.

“Texas, of course, has been adding jobs more than any other state over the last decade," said TWC spokesman James Bernsen. "We’re really seeing that continue even in the pandemic and we’re seeing a lot of the jobs that were hit kind of hard in the early days, some of the jobs are starting to come back.”